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Album Review: 'Senandung Senandika' by Maliq & D'Essentials

Stanley Widianto

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Fri, June 2, 2017  /  10:05 am
Album Review: 'Senandung Senandika' by Maliq & D'Essentials

'Senandung Senandika' by Maliq & D'Essentials (Maliq & D'Essentials/File)

Senandung Senandika (Reflective Song) is Maliq & D’Essentials’ seventh album and a direct continuation of the band’s attempt to evolve and carve out new possibilities for their music.

Now it’s hard to say whether they have jettisoned their pop/RnB leanings that made their name when their debut, 1st, was released in 2005.

Their last three albums — Sriwedari, Musik Pop and Senandung Senandika — have gotten considerably more progressive and less straightforward; repudiating their penchant for comfort and establishing their willingness to step up to their own challenges.

Released in May, the latest album is a front-to-back adventurous, jubilant listen; the band — consisting of Angga (vocals), Indah (vocals), Lale (guitar), Ilman (keyboard), Jawa (bass), dan Widi (drums) — is relentless in its search for new possibilities to a) work new instruments (sitar, harp, or emulated versions of them) into their songs, while b) pulling off a complete pop freak-out, which makes for great albums like this.

As a result, it is perhaps Maliq & D’Essentials most progressive album; drawing cues from musicians such as Jockie Soerjoprajogo, early Chrisye and, on a more contemporary front, Swedish musician Jens Lekman.

And it takes less than a few minutes to know why. The first song “Sayap” (Wings) starts with a guqin — a sitar sound and gurgling synth before breaking into Angga’s croon.

The music on this album feels cavernous and enveloping, an orchestral choir, processed guitar samples could hit you at a moment’s notice. Chirping birds open “Musim Bunga (Flower Season) and a digital synth groove permeates “Maya” (Cyber). All of these songs coalesce and produce an exciting takeaway: That Maliq & D’Essentials are never shy about opening up their music.

“Senang” (Happy) boasts glistening keyboard-work. At its core, there is a straightforward pop song — it is also one of their first two singles — but Maliq & D’Essentials use the keyboard to great effect; it’s adventurous and contemplative, too.

The music on Senandung Senandika, to me, evokes colors. A whole lot of them, in fact. I have a hunch that I will find many layers that are previously undiscovered when I put the record back on for re-listens.

Two of the best cuts from the record are “Idola” (Idol) and the title track. The former begins with a harp sound and lilting acoustic guitar and proceeds to welcome Angga and his gorgeous falsetto; he has all the prowess as a balladeer. His voice (backed by the band later on) strips the song of its sentimentality. The lyrics — “idola, sepanjang masa dia yang selalu menjadi bintang/di malam yang tergelap dia selalu terang” (idol, they’re always a star/at the darkest night, it will shine) — are evocative and moving. Senandung Senandika’s lyrics follow this same thread: literate, but never inscrutable.

And the latter is the beguiling, ecstatic title track. A gurgling synth makes its way to an ABBA-inspired pop nugget. One disappointing dud is, unfortunately, the last cut, “Manusia” (Human). Though it is a callback to their earlier, jazz-inflected stuff, the song doesn’t really function well as a closer. It also does have Maliq & D’Essentials’ signature feel-good musicianship (“manusia biasa/kamu luar biasa”[humans are ordinary/you are exceptional]), but albums like Senandung Senandika can’t just end fleetingly, forgettably.

The other songs more than make up for it, however. Musik Pop was enough to leave me wanting for more of the band’s activities — Maliq & D’Essentials and cohesive albums are never far apart. Senandung Senandika confidently rose to this challenge. By making a progressive, straight-up exciting pop album like this, Maliq & D’Essentials have proven to themselves that they are never one to rest on their laurels.