Boomkat Product Review:
Contemporary Balinese gamelan master Dewa Alit leads his large ensemble on a discretely inventive fusion of traditional styles for their 2nd enchanting turn with Black Truffle
Flush with glittering rhythmelody and reverberant harmonic overtones played on custom-built metallophones, ‘Chasing The Phantom’ flows forth a familiar yet unorthodox take on deeply rooted Indonesian ritual music that’s sure to resonate with lovers of electronic music. Since early childhood in the ‘70s, as a member of a family of artists in Bali, Dewa Alit has been immersed in the unique artform. Schooled by his father Dewa Nyoman Sura and brother Dewa Putu Berata, and playing in adult ensembles from a teenager, Dewa has dared to experiment with gamelan tradition since the ‘90s, resulting in notable roles touring with Bang On a Can allstars and regularly teaching internationally.
‘Chasing The Phantom’ sees Alit lead his 4th ensemble album; a pair of durational works that combine two distinct gamelan scales in an inventive manner that lives up to the project’s portmanteau - “salu” meaning house, and “kat” signifying regeneration and rebirth - with an absorbing, innovative reflection on gamelan’s complex relationship between tradition and modernity in Indonesian culture. More specifically, the album is intended to model the way that belief in the phantoms or spirits known as “memedi” are disseminated via social media’s digital technologies, placing him as a sort of sonic psychopomp bridging epochs.
It’s not hard to identify the ensemble’s uncanny slant on tradition, manifest in the unusually quizzical timbres and stop/start pulses of ’Ngejuk Memedi’, written during lockdown and channelling pangs of anxiety and ecstasy in its manic trills and diffraction of energies into low end exploration. ‘Likad’ on the other hand glitters on the ear’s eye with rapid saccades reminding of Alvin Curran’s sampledelic work or the clarity of a DX7 locking and syncopating in bewildering, near-glitch forms.