The Jakarta Post
Like most post-hardcore/screamo music, Ai, Bali-based A City Sorrow Built's debut album, released on Sailboat Records in June, is loud and kind of sad.
This is the whole trajectory of the emo genre boiled down to two innocuous adjectives. Emo bands, at their worst, sound like one another, but at their best they sound emotionally resonant. Can they afford to be angry and unrepentant while doing so? Of course.
Sonically, Ai comes on too strong to be cohesive as a whole record. Some half-cooked songs like the instrumental 'Suaramu' (Your Voice) are distracting, especially when it comes up after 'Hati/Salju' (Heart/Snow), the first song already showing its teeth from the very first minutes. 'Hati/Salju' itself is preceded by 'Dua Puluh' (Twenty), a great, tenderly plucked song that serves as a loud/quiet contrast to open an album that's pretty much all about it.
The 'quiet' part doesn't show up again until the very last song. Before that, you'll hear 'Datang/Pergi' (Come/Go), which segues into 'Hitam/Putih' (Black/White), which again segues into 'Pelangimu' (Your Rainbow). In each of these songs, Ai unfolds into restless dirges ' a true accomplishment as a hardcore album. You name it: torching vocals from Emil, melodic riffs from Adi and some great drumming from Agus.
They are loud, but at times, they reveal Ai's one and only problem: they are meandering. No act breaks in the middle of songs that prove to be overwhelming on a first listen.
Perhaps Ai was intended to overwhelm, as 'Recorded over the span of two years, amidst continuous personal turmoil: unrequited loves, failed relationships, existential crises ongoing and the death of a parent. It's perhaps understandable what took them so long. But nonetheless here it is, finally,' is apparently the album's description.
But then 'Duka/Cita' (Sorrow/Joy) comes up. In a span of almost 10 minutes, A City Sorrow Built proves it can make epic songs by battling out great lyrics, carefully constructed, delicate post-rock music and some pretty excellent vocals. By saying 'epic', it really, really is epic. I wish this record had more 'Duka/Cita' in it, but Ai is still a short record that finishes what its saying.
Lyrically, this whole album is on another level. Blending lovelorn poetry and hardcore music without a verbose or sentimental feel makes Ai a pretty decent album if you're willing to go with A City Sorrow Built's offer of a ride.
Most importantly, the lyrics stay true to the record's mission statement, lending at least a sense of cohesion on an album that could have used more of it.
'Kasih Sayangku' (My Love), an acoustic-guitar led song that features Emil's chesty voice, closes the record forlornly, but it also offers a reprieve after the firestorm that comes before it.
Ai is by no means a bad record; the songs are actually pretty decent. I'm just not sure if they're decent together. Ai is loud and kind of sad, but it could have been more than that if it had refused to play by the rules.
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