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Jakarta Post

Cults, collectors & vinyl resurrection in Indonesia

  • Prodita Sabarini

    The Jakarta Post

Bandung/Jakarta   /   Tue, August 27, 2013   /  12:19 pm
Cults, collectors & vinyl resurrection in Indonesia

Vinyl heaven: Secreted away in the Rossi Music Building in South Jakarta, Grieve Records caters to local vinyl fans.

On Friday, July 19, dozens of people were seen lining up in front of Grieve Records music store in Fatmawati, South Jakarta.

Those waiting were diehard fans of Homicide and July 19 was a long awaited date, ever since Grieve Records announced that it would release the old-school Yogyakarta hip-hop band'€™s first album on 12'€ vinyl format.

Godzkilla Necronometry was out.

'€˜Godzkilla Necronometry'€™: Grieve Records released Homicide'€™s album on 12'€ vinyl.'€˜Godzkilla Necronometry'€™: Grieve Records released Homicide'€™s album on 12'€ vinyl.

The album sold out in five hours '€” something unprecedented in the history of independent music in Indonesia. Usually it takes around one to two weeks for the albums of a well known independent band to sell out, said Uri Putra, Grieve Records co-owner and the singer of rock duo Ghaust.

On the third floor of the Rossi Music Building '€” a scraggly four-story structure marked by a discreet signpost close to the road '€” Uri and his partner, Sayiba Rahmat Bajumi, also the singer of punk band Kelelawar Malam, sit in the common room of their offices.

To the left is the office of Grieve Records. To the right, is the headquarters of the Akamady online music store, specializing in vinyl. It'€™s a good environment: The whole building is dedicated to music. Gig spaces, recording studios and the record store are all downstairs.

The pair say that the enthusiasm for the Homicide release was more than they expected. '€œWe had very little publicity '€” nothing very intense,'€ Uri said. '€œWe just depended on social media, because Homicide'€™s fan base is huge, even reaching Malaysia and Singapore.'€ Even before the release date, the copies Grieve had set aside for mail orders had sold out. '€œWe thought it would take around five days,'€ Uri said.

In Bandung, Herry '€œUcok'€ Sutresna, Homicide'€™s front man and founder of the record label Grimloc, credited the quick sales to social media. Uri, however, had a different take. '€œJust before they disbanded, they were at their peak '€” when they released Illsurrekshun [in 2007]. On that album, they peaked really high and just after that album, they stopped. Now they'€™re like a cult.'€

Rolling Stone Indonesia online editor-in-chief Wendi Putranto said that even when Homicide was still around, they were heard more often on record than live '€œbecause they rarely went on stage that time'€.

Ucok said that they had been very picky in choosing venues for Homicide to perform, avoiding music events with big corporate sponsors. '€œThe public has followed Homicide'€™s journey through album releases, artwork, T-shirts, Ucok'€™s thought provoking writings and his social activism and advocacy,'€ Wendi wrote in an email. '€œNot to mention years of word of mouth that created a certain myth about Homicide.'€

Aside from Homicide'€™s prominence, the vinyl renaissance has taken root in Indonesia. While admittedly comprising a niche market of die-hard independent and general music fans, the aficionados say the audio quality of albums is superior to that of MP3 files, which sacrifice acoustics in favor of convenience and small file sizes.

Collecting vinyl is a movement, Ucok said, with collectors raiding flea markets, online stores and even traveling abroad to find records. Many members of local independent bands are also fans of the format.

Ucok said that he always wanted to release his albums in vinyl. '€œThe most conventional format for hip-hop is vinyl [.'€¦] It'€™s an obsession of mine to have albums in this format.'€

Grieve Records, whose store and label only opened last year, is the first local firm to resurrect vinyl after the advent of CDs and MP3s. They have built on the work of the first company to make vinyl in Indonesia, state-owned Lokananta, which is now longer in the business. Currently, records can only be pressed in the US, which is where Grieve had its work done.

Despite the hassels, Grieve has set a trend for the local production of vinyl, encouraged by local bands. In March, Bandung-based FFWD Records released The S.I.G.I.T'€™s Detourn in CD and vinyl formats, for example.

Splatter platter: The S.I.G.I.T.'€™s Detourn was released as a special double LP by Bandung-based FF/WD.Splatter platter: The S.I.G.I.T.'€™s Detourn was released as a special double LP by Bandung-based FF/WD.

Meanwhile in June, Elevation Records re-issued Sajama Cut'€™s The Osaka Journal. Next up for the label are vinyl re-releases of Yogyakarta-based Aurette and The Polska Seeking Carnival'€™s eponymous debut album, the only album of surf-rock collective Southern Beach Terror, in collaboration with Sonic Funeral Records, both on 12'€ vinyl; and Palembang-based Semakbelukar'€™s self-titled eight-song EP on 7'€ vinyl.

At Legoh restaurant on Bandung'€™s distro-lined Jl. Sultan Agung, Rektivianto Yoewono, The S.I.G.I.T'€™s vocalist, described the band'€™s release, which included a silver virgin vinyl, CD, interchangable covert art and other paraphernalia all for Rp 400,000 (US$36.8).

For Rekti, every band with members who collect vinyl wants their music released in vinyl, too. He is no exception, having been a collector since he was in junior high school. His collection currently tops 10,000 records.

Rekti was philosophic on his obsession. '€œIt'€™s very materialistic,'€ he said. '€œThere is a euphoria in having an object. Almost everyone wants to own something. Almost no one wants something that'€™s only virtual.'€

'€œFor me, I want to have an object that cannot be replaced except by the real thing. We can'€™t go virtual in vinyl. You have to have the original,'€ Rekti said.

Tucked away: Fans hunting vinyl also have to hunt for Grieve Records, tucked away inside the Rossi Music Building on Jl. Fatmawati in South Jakarta.Tucked away: Fans hunting vinyl also have to hunt for Grieve Records, tucked away inside the Rossi Music Building on Jl. Fatmawati in South Jakarta.

'€œVinyl has a higher prestige. It'€™s bigger. The artwork is bigger. When you hold it you '€˜feel'€™ it more. There'€™s a satisfaction in the desire to own something that one really likes,'€ he said.

Indeed, some of those who collect vinyl do not necessarily buy albums just to listen. Back in the Rossi Building, Uri explained that the character of collectors was diverse. '€œSome don'€™t even have turntables,'€ Uri said.

Fans often like to collect every format for the releases of their favorite bands '€” from cassettes, CDs, DVDs, to vinyl. '€œThey will probably listen to the music digitally, though,'€ Uri said. Others were audiophiles, with high-end sound systems and who preferred vinyl.

'€œFinally, there are some who collect vinyl because it'€™s part of fashion and lifestyle and just to be hip,'€ Uri said.

Sayiba identified another breed of collectors: The traders.

Some people view records and merchandise as investments. Due to limited editions, record prices can easily quintuple. Just a week after the release of Godzkilla, its price has risen from Rp 250,000 to Rp 350,000. Uri said that a year from now, it might sell for as much as Rp 1.5 million.

Uri was upbeat on the chance on making money, despite widespread piracy. Die-hard fans and vinyl enthusiast were still willing to spend a lot for their music, he said.

Sayiba added that every year, more and more avid collectors were emerging. '€œThere'€™s a lot of drive to collect local releases. And people are proud of it.

Uri said that it would be impossible to fight piracy unless the whole Internet was shut down. '€œWith the kind of system that we have, the Internet is a big listening station where you can freely download and stream.'€

He posited an alternate way to make money in the music business. '€œWe need to build awareness to support the bands that you like. Either you go to their concert or buy their T-shirt.'€

'€” Images courtesy Grieve Records, FF/WD Records, Elevation Records and Fandy Susanto.


Looking for Vinyl?

Elevation Records: (not .com)
Grimloc Records:
FF/WD Records:
Grieve Records:
Akamady Online Music Store:

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