By Azzief Khaliq
Rhythm is perhaps one of the most underappreciated elements in modern (Western-popular) music. This isn’t to say that modern listeners can’t “feel the rhythm” or something of the sort, though; far from it. Instead, what I mean is simply that the mind-altering, hallucinatory power of rhythm is often forgotten and cast aside, with music content to use the drums and percussion simply as the backbone instead of exploring its myriad possibilities.
Malar, the newest album from Indonesian group Uwalmassa, is a welcome alternative to this state of affairs. It’s an edifice dedicated almost entirely to the power of rhythm, evoking multiple genres and styles while deftly avoiding categorisation into any particular one.
The music on Malar is deeply hybrid and almost impossible to truly break it down to its core constituents. There are, however, a few (relatively) obvious landmarks: gamelan-derived percussive melodicism (or melodic percussiveness?), drum and bass atmospherics, algorithmic/generative composition, propulsive footwork patterns, and gqom’s polyrhythmic club destruction.
Uwalmassa layer and weave these points of reference (and others) through each other, stretching, manipulating, and discombobulating as they go. The end result is a singular experience that seems to exist in its own space, floating through temporal and sonic streams without alighting for long (if at all).
Malar manages to be deeply psychedelic without any of the usual sonic signifiers one associates with that descriptor. It’s an amorphous beast, each thread of rhythm-percussion-melody following its own agenda, combining and diverging when needed. The listener’s left balancing on a knife-edge, pulled in multiple directions.
Let me continue this overwrought train of thought if I may, and say that Malar almost forces you to choose between looking at the forest or the trees. It feels difficult, if not impossible, to truly make sense of everything simultaneously. But it’s to Malar‘s great credit that it’s a bracing and mind-altering experience either way.
- Year: 2022
- Label: Mana
- Country: Indonesia