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.