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Uwalmassa - Malar (Mana, 2022)

On their latest effort, the DIVISI62 collective continue to merge Indonesian cultural hallmarks with global electronic movements, which occurs via the highly inventive usage of drumming sequences and mystifying, seemingly ever morphing structures.

Percussion and rhythm are elements ubiquitous with almost every genre imaginable, from the past, the present and certainly the future. It is widely considered that the first forms of music were probably drum based, and as such the various incarnations of the wide plethora of percussion orientated instruments have played an integral role in the emergence of cultures and countries. This is seen all around the world where communities have retained the sounds of their ancestors, and in some cases a national significance has been placed on the rhythms that were forged thousands of years ago, and as such retain a high level of importance. Within contemporary music, it has often been the case that such percussive hallmarks have been featured within compositions, sometimes as one offs on albums or collaborations but in a number of cases they have been utilised as the backbone of new genres. Drums bind the listener to songs in a very physical way, their form and placement acting as pulses which run through the body, instigating movement or encouraging a sense of anticipation at what might come next. But there are times when their character can be more than that, throwing into the works a sense of the mystique, a chattering narrative that chimes along to a shared and busy context, where interconnected beings congregate within a space that becomes alive with energy. Drums craft surges of differing intensities, be it the high octane rhythms of kicks and snares, or beautifully considered textures that come from cymbals, hats and shakers, the instrument is reflective of a spectrum of energies that persist all around us. When left alone, drumming is an artform, its rhythmic form crafting images in the mind that indicate intensity, or calm, or an intermediate zone, their form sometimes says things that other instruments cannot. And when you dip your head within a record that emphasises the power of drumming sequences, then you really do enter into a world that feels stretched, morphed and powerfully channelled - a journey like no other.....

One such collective that has utilised drumming frequencies to this such effect is the Jakata based Uwalmassa, who incorporate ever evolving percussive elements in their work to craft bridges between Indonesian culture and global sounds and styles. The group are linked with the DIVISI62 label, which is described as a "sound and visual arts label aiming to reach new heights in the continual construction of the Indonesian identity", and as you dip your toe into the label's back catalogue you get a real sense of the audial character that they are looking to convey. Each record that flows out of the imprint turns a focus to a differing aspect of the label's conceptual vision, be it the channelling of unknown and known spaces, the mirroring of Indonesian identity, and the absorption of worldwide genre stylings, with all of these themes giving rise to a body of work that is as beautifully intuitive as it is intellectually engaging. The style of the label is thus incredibly elastic, reverberating from left to right as the spotlight gets drawn onto yet another step onwards in exploring the gateways between audial and visual wavelengths, and as a progression its a delight to meander through. From Jazzy house through to spare leftfield excursions, there's enough under the DIVISI62 label to last for a lifetime, and the Uwalmassa collective have certainly had a hand in the label's level of success, and indeed its futures too. The group have largely utilised the notion of drumming patterns to help join the dots between Indonesian musical and cultural heritages and the wider spectrum of music, and the manner in which they do that is very thought provoking. The group utilise both the notion of planned and live recordings to help create a sense of liveliness within their work, a presence that grooves from left to right on the pan, binding the listener to a morphology that feels very much like its a living, breathing organism. This approach crafts a link that doesn't just speak to the listener on just an audial level, but on a cultural level too, opening up the collectivised eyes to a world that seems so inviting and full of things to learn about. Its a crafting of an image that isn't static, but moving, being painted, being added to, a link that is worth revisiting over and over again as to understand all the layers being conveyed. Both of their albums so far were created with a different theme in mind, and this also helps to craft a sense of depth to their work that goes beyond the notion of music - there is a reason to involve yourself, and their engrossing sound makes it so easy to press play and imagine so many things. Their debut, 2016's 'Bumi Uthiri', utilises Javan instrumentation as a means to transport the listener to humanity's 'future ancient times'; and the collaborative effort 'Animisme' from 2018, which was inspired by Indonesia's urban slums, the Indonesian music genre Dangdut, and the Indonesian martial art style pencak silat. In all, the music that Uwalmassa craft persists on multiple levels of experience, from its ethereal top ends through to its cavernous lows, the drums create a hypnotic vortex that wraps itself around the listener. The consciousness is left with one foot in the here and now and with one within another realm, eager to follow the grooves to their next stage of being, and as a conceptual outline it works wonders. Be absolutely sure to check out their previous efforts, they are both winners.

And now we arrive at the groups debut LP, 'Malar', that arrives via the excellent Mana imprint. On this record, the group continue their explorations of the liminal spaces between Indonesian culture and audial frequencies, with the music that comes forth pushing this exploration further into the Dance Music spectrum. The outlay is immediately involving, with pulsating undercurrents consisting of delicately balanced rhythms marching along with light but eerie notes, with each composition reverting to a new form as the transitions come and go. There's a beautiful sense of progression to be found across the entire record, as that sense of movement and vibrancy we mentioned earlier comes to the fore throughout, crafting a sense of eagerness within the listener that burns so very brightly. As a package, its a wondrous world, filled with life, knowledge and culture, and it simply asks you to come along for the ride - so, without further delay, lets dive into this melting pot of polyrhythms, sonic reverence and dripping, liquid tones....

'Guram' arrives first, and this one begins with the fuzz to get things going. This is quickly eroded by an ominous thud, and as this repeats an ensemble of sounds begins to fill up the room, skipping and reverberating around as if it wishes to flicker into life, but cannot find its footing. This unravelling works beautifully though, crafting an initial level of intrigue that sets the tone very well for things to come. The drums arrive towards the end of the cut, pulsating from the bottom end right through to the top half with such precision, allowing the listener a bit of time to get a sense of the next phase. A wonderful opener. Up next comes 'Majuh', and this one begins with a glitchy sequence of samples and drumming tones. A melodic element starts to peek through, and from this helps to form a basis of a structure, and soon enough this structure emerges from within, sparking its way into existence as the intensity starts to shift upwards. The kicks slide way to provide a bit of downtime, but soon enough we are lifted off our feet once more as the drums come back into view, this time bringing more elements which add plenty of oomph to proceedings. The track continues onwards through a myriad of phases, with vocal samples added in which provide further narrative and character, their form and presence effortlessly meandering around the intricate swirls of the drums. The bottom ends shift around in terms of presence, creating a captivating sense of dynamism that just won't quit. Sublime stuff. 'Belit' comes next, and this one starts off with the lightly emerging drumming patterns to get us going. The differing layers provide much to involve yourself within, from the solid lines underneath to the ever shifting top layers, the percussion evolves from both within itself and outwith its environment, asking the listener to reside within the spaces. As time passes the densities switch again to accommodate more elements that add enormously to the visual language, as little lines bend and twirl around larger, heavyset objects. Around the half way mark sees a distinctive drop off in layering, but only for the briefest of moments as we embark on another shift through the initial blend. The lines continue to blur all around, dipping through the sands that curve across the horizon line, bleeding out into the evening sky as we see the vibrations of the earth start to materialise. Beautiful stuff.

'Rantas' arrives next, and this one begins with the light chimes and deep caverns to get us going. The atmosphere is immediate and ever so slightly foreboding, as long shadows get cast across the plains in which we find ourselves, with shapes in the distance beginning to formulate from afar. The liquid nature of the initial composition start to come together soon after, as solid rhythmic wavelengths emerge from within to help provide a sense of vitality and clarity, and its oh so beautiful. The layers once again are impeccably pulled off, their constant chattering helping to make the room in which we reside within feel larger than life, as a near endless pouring of energy finds its way through into the soul. Just when you thought things couldn't get any more forceful, the introduction of spacious kicks sets things off into another galaxy, flawlessly combining the energy of the previous segment with all the means to go on. Amazing stuff. Up next comes 'Caruk', and this one starts with the slow and steady to get the pulses racing. The deep bass like tones provide a solid foundation for all manner of light elements to emerge and spew forth, their placement within the melange light on the ears but indefinitely exciting to engage with. The constant renewal of sounds allows for the listener to continually loose themselves within the mix, reaching their hands out just to find new marvels to fall in love with. The track begins to climax as numerous elements double up and find much pleasure in remaining in one place, and its the ultimate head smoother. Up next comes 'Putung', and this one starts off with the haze to get things moving onwards. The textures give way to the main pulse, as little lines start to make their way into the picture, filling up the left and right of the picture with an impassioned intensity. The structure starts to overflow with vibrancy and positive notions, with further elements swirling around the groove, as the listener starts to align themselves with the very centre of the picture. There's a distinctly melodic feel to this number, with an emotional response placed within the listener that is hard to pin down, but its this spectrum that works well in the compositions favour. The track starts to slow down ever so slightly within the final third, as elements dissipate into the wind, and all we are left with is the final little piece of haze. Glorious stuff.

'Karnal' comes next, and this one begins with an intriguing outlay. The chimes of the background percussion align well with the solid bassy tones that persist in the foreground, and as time passes by we find ourselves somewhere inbetween, fluidly moving alongside both sequences as if along for some kind of rhythmic joyride. The track, as ever, is deeply engrossing, providing a sense of audial narrative that is easy to merge with, before converging at the next meandering turn. Fluid, hypnotic, and impeccably balanced, this is one to remember. 'Tilik' arrives soon after, and this one starts a little bit differently to the previous numbers. The drums move along the mid range in a scuttle like motion, weaving around a curve before moving away, only to return a moment later, and as this notion goes round and round new tones move into view to provide further indication of the next phase. The original repeating element almost becomes repeated in new sequences that find plenty of time to make their presence known, and as the track begins to filter away we are reminded of the full power of this record. To wrap things up, we have 'Sembahyang', and here things begin with a solid melodic block to help set the scene. Deep vibrations swarm up from underneath, as the drums start to do the rounds, but only in a small sense for the moment, as there remains plenty of time to crack open the belly of this track with some intense percussive features. For the time being, the track is happy to really push the limits of tone and texture, and as we reach the climax, everything - and we mean everything - drops away, and all we are left with is a distant non-sound. This large, expansive breathing space makes the moment that everything comes back into view even more impressive, as we leave a cavern and enter back into the vibrancy, chiming along to the rhythms that have bound us to an experience like no other. 2022 might be just beginning, but Uwalmassa have already made us aware that this record is one to watch for a long time yet.

Binding people to records is quite a tricky task, and often its up to the people behind it as to determine the level of involvement within a series of tracks, and how much someone takes away from the experience. Uwalmassa have perfected the idea of giving over so much to the listener, via their expertly conceived concept of blending culture with music and the imagination. Their debut LP is no different, as they expend their energy on shifting the attention towards the interface between Indonesian identity and dance music. The rhythms are infectious, and when blended with the tonal experiments it makes for a deeply satisfying listen, one where each track subverts expectation and allows space to be redefined constantly. The tracks morph beautifully within themselves and with each other, transitioning between densities and forms with such flair that you find yourself just sitting back and letting it all flow by. Its a record that gives over so much, and if you stick this on, you will find yourself tapping along within the deepest recesses of the mind. A pure joy, and an experience like no other.

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