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Review: 'Suarasama'

-  Label: 'Drag City Records/Bandcamp'
-  Genre: 'Ambient' -  Release Date: '12.5.23.'

Our Rating:
This is the 10th anniversary re-issue of Timeline by Suarasama the world music duo who met at the University Of Washington but are based at University of Sumatera Utara in Medan, Sumatra Indonesia, where Irwansyah Harahap and Rithaony Hutajulu worked as lecturers in Ethnomusicology. Sadly, Irwansyah Harahap passed away in 2021 at just 60 years old.

The album opens with Untukmu Yang Berperang a rather chilled out song that melds west African Chedo style songs with Malaysian Sapu Lidi percussion to infectious effect.

Dukkha is underpinned by a drone that the Gambus, Mandolin and guitar are playing over in a way that's almost reminiscent of Chinese opera music. There is also a percussive element provided by a series of handclap rhythms.

The title tune Timeline evolves over its near 14-minute length from slow picked strings that share a sensibility with Joe Harriot and John Mayer's Indo jazz fusions. This sounds like it would be perfect to hear while visiting a temple in Berastagi while wandering through the Karo Batak highlands, as Rithaony Hutajulu's vocals start to bewitch the listener eventually being joined by a male vocal counterpoint. The shakers and drums add another layer to this piece.

Sea Fish I assume is for the latest catch brought ashore from the Indian ocean, this features sparse percussion with wordless vocals set against a drone, as that sampan comes ashore ready for the fresh fish to be sold.

Awesome has bewitching acoustic guitar being picked in a very Bert Jansch style as the hummed vocals add texture along with the shaker's that add an almost Gamelan flavor.

Journey would have been perfect for the bus ride I took between Medan and Bukittinggi back in the early 1990's, the sounds to accompany gazing out of the bus window at the jungle and mountains, although this doesn’t have any sounds for the live chickens some people brought onto the bus, I can see the vista's opening up as the bus slowly climbed the mountains with Rithaony Hutajulu's vocals sounding almost like a female muezzins call. The further into this journey you go the more religious the music sounds in a cool meditational way.

Kita Berbagi (We Share) is the most western flavored tune on the album, sounding like a traditional folk song, it's pretty with the message that we all need to share I'm guessing music, food and love is a very cool pretty end to this album.

Find out more at https://www.dragcity.com/products/timeline https://ffm.to/timelinesuarasama https://suarasama.bandcamp.com/album/timeline https://www.facebook.com/suarasama.indonesia

  author: simonovitch

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