Raja Kirik – Phantasmagoria of Jathilan

· by Laurent Bellemare

If it’s not intuitive to imagine a mix of high-strung EDM, new instrumental sounds and traditional Southeast Asian influences, Indonesian duo Raja Kirik skilfully explores the issue on their latest opus Phantasmagoria of Jathilan. The Javanese experimental music scene is brimming with unsuspected talent. In particular, the city of Yogyakarta has produced many highly original artists over the years. Electronic artist Yennu Ariendra and invented instrument maker Johanes Santoso Pribadi are rising figures in this unique cultural milieu. Together, they create a fast-paced music that blends the oldest connotations with the most recent digital sounds. Against a backdrop almost always lined with a rapid pulse, the strange sounds of Pribadi’s instruments, made from recycled materials, pound and enrich the rhythm. The rather long pieces develop like trance rituals, featuring vocals, various samples and drum-and-bass-style rhythmic explosions.

The esoteric aspect evoked here refers to a conscious Jathilan influence, a Hindu-Buddhist ritual dance once used in Java to protect oneself from oppressors. This theme inspires the very genesis of Raja Kirik. In this new album, this influence is all the more asserted with the bewitching voice of Silir Wangi, whose melodic contour instantly recalls the Indonesian archipelago. The album was also captured on location, during performances with dancer Aria Dwianto, where he embodied a plethora of historical and mythological characters. Although this aspect does not translate well into an album, a highly original musical proposition nevertheless emerges from this recording.

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