Slipping in right at the very end of 2017 is quite possibly the best piece of musical fusion that has been released this year. Flemish producer Dijf Sanders spent months travelling around the depths of Indonesia recording samples of traditional music from performances across the country. He then took them home and mixed them together with some additional beats and what we get is Java.
Across its 40 minutes and nine tracks, we travel the country and experience its landscapes. From the undertone of swamp and forest wildlife to the melodic tuned percussion that becomes the hallmark for this corner of the world, each piece is rich and full of a real tapestry of life. The album also feels like a live performance, as interwoven between some of the tracks is spoken word like the natives are talking to the audience as they prepare for the next piece. It’s quite a unique twist when we know it’s all been carefully layered and sculpted.
Whilst I’ve said beats have been overlaid, they aren’t turning the music into some horrible world fusion dance cheese fest – everything is in keeping with tone and feel. Some tracks slink, others are more tribal and fierce. They are all melodic though and use different instruments from the region to showcase a different sound. “Akim” is melodic and plucked, “Cibusi” is pointed like a drawn string as the natural world atmosphere takes over, whilst “Teghu” is like a post-apocalyptic lament for lute and urhu like instruments. “Kaster” is utterly spellbinding as electronica takes over behind the warped tape feel of the sampled vocals and traditional gamelan sections. The gamelan has a central roll in a few songs and is hypnotically beautiful or haunting depending on the melody.
Ultimately, from out of nowhere, I have a new favourite album. I’ve purposely kept this review a bit secret and different from my usual track by track affair – and that’s because I want you to experience the fusion of samples and worlds with fresh ears. All I can tell you is that I’m so glad it’s in my life and you’ll see this feature in my top albums of 2017 with ease.
Recommended Track: Jaipong