Review
Senyawa
Alkisah

Phantom Limb (2021) Cheryl

Senyawa – Alkisah cover artwork
Senyawa – Alkisah — Phantom Limb, 2021

Indonesian duo Senyawa are experimentalists of the highest order on Alkisah, a record the dives head-first into the strange and unusual through improvisation with homemade instruments from Wukir Suryadi and a voice that ranges from the manic to the beautiful from Rully Shabara. Senyawa link the traditional to the modern as Alkisah progresses through structures that are formed as if from a dream, the links created through flowing sounds that are familiar while being unknown. There are hints of the real world in their music and the sounds that their instruments make, yet Senyawa bring forth an energy that is tangibly otherworldly in their beats and vocal patterns.

“Alkisah I” is initially quiet in its opening, yet it soon moves quickly to curious beats and vocalisations that are curated around the bizarre elements of Wukir Suryadi’s improvised instruments. Knowing exactly what is happening regarding the sounds being produced is a difficult task to handle and one can imagine that even in a live setting, Senyawa distort and distract reality in order to suspend the belief of their audience. “Istana” slithers into unsettling, doomed territory as it envelops the atmosphere in uneasy drones and feedback, Shabara’s voice hitting deeper notes and showcasing an incredible talent for changing their voice to suit the music. In later songs there is throat-singing or chanting and in final track “Kiamat” an aggressive shout that lies in sync with huge percussive strikes. It is an explosive end to an album of dynamic textures and intriguing moments that bring more questions that answers.

Alkisah is boundless in its exploration of the world of those who are behind it and the two artists at the heart of the project pull from personal experience in terms of their homeland and the myths and legends that surround them while taking the structures of their songs beyond the limits of what is expected from experimental music. Senyawa control the movement of the songs in such a way as to evoke structure yet the music on display here almost takes on a life of its own. The dream world is rife with mysticism and Senyawa are the guides we need to navigate it.

8.0 / 10Cheryl • June 14, 2021

Senyawa – Alkisah cover artwork
Senyawa – Alkisah — Phantom Limb, 2021

Recently-posted album reviews

Proud Parents

At Home With
Independent (2021)

At Home With Proud Parents caught me a little off guard, right from the start. While the debut showcased a variety of influences, this one is even more toned back and chill, in contrast to some members’ other work with The Hussy. The opening track on this sophomore album, “Cellophane” is more of a folk-punk or cowpunk vibe with some warbled vocals, an acoustic … Read more

Hangman’s Hymnal

Small News Travels Fast in a Bad Town
Snappy Little Numbers (2020)

Hangman’s Hymnal is a nice addition to the Snappy Little Numbers roster and every bit as archaic as the title suggests. With a Wild West vibe pervading the songs, they manage to evoke mental images of them holding court in a saloon to perform their seasoned murder folk to a bunch of buzzed delinquents as part of a debaucherous hootenanny … Read more

Jiffy Marx

She’s My Witch / Warning Sign
Snappy Little Numbers (2020)

Jiffy Marx' She’s My Witch / Warning Sign 7″ does not only look like a 45er from the late seventies, but sonically delivers exactly that, i.e. two snappy lil’ pop punk numbers with the band firing on all cylinders. A snappy, fun 7” recorded in a bit more than a day, and sonically an homage and celebration the jangly pop punk … Read more