Indonesian band simakDialog released their first live recording Live At Orion as a double CD. Being Fender Rhodes player Riza Ashard's brainchild, you might think the attention on the album is focused around the inspiring and warm sound of his electric piano, but with a guitar player like Tohpati is, it would not do justice to this man's qualities, not to fully use his extraordinary capacities on the six stringed instrument. Therefore, the attention on this live recording is equally divided between the two musicians. For readers not familiar with this Indonesian jazz/ fusion band, there are no drums, but there are three percussionists. Endang Raman and Erlan Suwardana play the Sundanese kendang, while Cucu Kurnia add his assorted metal percussion to complete the solid and very adventurous backbase of simakDialog. New is bass player Rudy Zulkarnaen, who adds his funky groove to the band's music.
This album is recorded during their North American tour and sees compositions from previous albums extended with long improvised parts creating songs that last at least ten minutes. During the more laid back compositions; like One Has To Be the combination of all instruments sounds pretty relaxed with fine solo parts. Other compositions are more intense and guitar-wise tend toward Allan Holdsworth at some points, while during the powerful parts the aggressiveness of Jeff Beck clearly shines through Tohpati's guitar playing. Harder to comprehend is a song like This Spirit; with strange sounds, created on the guitar, that diverge with the accompanying piano, creating music not everyone will like. During 5,6 simakDialog added their friend guitar player Beledo to their line-up, creating a special atmosphere when two talented guitarists, with completely different backgrounds meet and cross axes. An innovative progressive part is the result.
I can still enjoy the experimental music simakDialog produces and the extended versions on this album do have their moments. On the other hand, I am totally aware this music is not the most accessible music to listen to. Live At Orion is food for jazz and fusion aficionados with an open mind for world music. The devoted progressive rock fan should listen first.
***+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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