Dewa Budjana – Naurora (2021)
FLAC (tracks) 24bit/96kHz | Time – 59:13 minutes | 886 MB | Genre: Jazz Rock, Ethnic Fusion
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Dead Oceans
Naurora is undoubtedly Dewa Budjana’s most ambitious work yet. Progressive, fresh, engaging, technically brilliant. Budjana’s tunes consistently clasp his listeners in a drape of gorgeous melodies, showpiece guitar parts and astounding ensemble passages that have a spacious air. Naurora, has is an exhilarating mix of styles, it delivers a succession of memorable motifs. It melds East Asian music with progressive jazz fusion and some occasional elements of rock, but most of all it delivers an idiosyncratic sound that is instantaneously identifiable as Dewa Budjana’s own.
After the atmospheric opening section of the title track fades to grey, Dewa Budjana’s trademark guitar tone imposes itself. From this point, it is apparent that his latest release is going to be an experience to savour.
Naurora is undoubtedly Budjanas’ most satisfying work yet. It is progressive. It is fresh. It is engaging. It is complex and technically brilliant. It is an album that has a rare ability to convey a range of feelings, whilst at the same time; it has the added advantage of being able to transcend anything that might be remotely classified as ‘artistically mundane’. It is superlative in every way.
Budjana’s tunes consistently clasp his listeners in a drape of gorgeous melodies, showpiece guitar parts and astounding ensemble passages that have a spacious air.
Naurora, has is an exhilarating mix of styles, it delivers a succession of memorable motifs. It melds hints of East Asian music with progressive jazz fusion and some occasional elements of rock, but most of all it delivers an idiosyncratic sound that is instantaneously identifiable as Dewa Budjana’s own
Naurora contains many different musical colours to stimulate the brain, and provides enough raucous interludes to rattle- shake and roll the torso.
Over the years, Dewa Budjana has been able to draw upon the services of a number of top drawer musicians to interpret his art. This trend continues in Naurora. The release features the outstanding pianist Joey Alexander on two of the five tracks. Gary Husband plays piano and synth on Blue Mansion
Guitarist Mateus Asato is featured alongside Budjana on the superb Swarna Jingga. Electric bass duties are shared between Jimmy Johnson and Carlitos Del Puerto. The drum stool is shared by Simon Phillips and Dave Weckl. Weckl plays on two compositions and Phillips features on the other three
A different and contrasting musical colour is provided by Paul Mc Candless. He plays Sax on Sabana Shanti. Ben Williams and Carlitos Del Puerto use the Upright bass to good effect on Blue Mansion and Sabana Shanti. With players of this calibre it is not surprising that the playing throughout is consistently inventive and frequently is simply outstanding.
Although Budjana’s compositions are innovative, melody is an important consideration and this ensures that they have a strong emotive pull. He is able to amalgamate inventive and technical aspects of fusion, with an ability to create tunes that have memorable hooks. Ethnic flavours, flowing piano interludes, and evocative guitar sounds, all have an important part to play. These combine and help to create an inventive type of instrumental music that crosses genres. The tunes sparkle with dazzling luminosity, as fusion and world music elements collide and joyfully coalesce.
Diverse influences spin frenetically in a vortex of complex, syncopated sounds, which throw out a plethora of musical and cultural influences. Harmony and dissonance both have a role to play, and there are opportunities to experience ferocious, intense passages of music, as well as interludes of gentle subtlety that soothe the senses and clasp the heart. These reflective segments drip with creativity, and are satisfyingly saturated with beauty and elegance.
Budjana’s expressive guitar playing oozes with emotion. Each guitar embellishment radiates with feeling and he has an impressive ability to choose just the right amount of clarity or expressive distortion to complement the mood of a tune. On the occasions where the guitar is used as the lead instrument, the solos are tastefully built, where each note is hand-picked for maximum effect. The clever use of effects creates a woven soundscape that interweaves a tapestry of sounds. This approach also gives the music an opulent texture and this is especially the case when the imaginative and innovative guitar parts are combined with the other instruments of the ensemble
Although the music is tightly spun, much of it exudes a fresh spontaneous air where the soloists appear to have lots of freedom to improvise. For example, Joey Alexander’s astonishing piano solo that has a prominent part to play in the title track simply swings.
There is a great balance between freedom and structure in the five pieces on offer. Equally, there is a great balance between savage snarling guitar passages, fluent piano and keyboard runs. This creates an impressive soundscape that readily enables a series of illusory images to linger, or momentarily enter the mind.
All members of the band excel as a collective and impress individually on the occasions when they have an eminent role to play in the arrangements. There are numerous virtuoso passages, which display a range of incredible skills. When solos occur they sensitively, complement the piece, rather than dominate. This type of awareness and empathy for the direction and ambience of a piece is in evidence in McCandless’ spacious s blowing and Alexanders elegant snaking contribution during the outstanding Sabana Shanti.
The insistent twisting rhythms and buoyant raft of magnificent guitar parts of Blue Mansion are enhanced by Husband’s fleet fingered piano work. Satisfyingly Husband, also provides a glorious synth interlude that squeals and slides in an engaging and enjoyable manner.
The album’s tunes are frequently characterised by a number of bubbling bass interludes. These embellishments work superbly and are integral to the arrangement, as they are often used to link different sections within a piece. The low end of the album is further enhanced by the rhythmic flourishes and sensitive embellishments provided by the upright bass. Puerto’s solo during Blue Mansion is especially memorable. The bassist’s great sense of tone, rhythm and space create a hugely enjoyable platform for the skills of drummer Phillips and Weckl to be fully utilised.
The drumming throughout is incredibly persuasive. Its rhythmic and complex tenacity is sure to tap toes and twist the torso. The oddly syncopated rhythms and solo kit parts during Blue Mansion are intricate and powerful, and the crisp recording quality of the album captures Philips busy and resolute style perfectly.
The drum work of Weckl also offers the listener a master class of touch and syncopation. His skill is fully illuminated in Sabana Shanti and Swarna Jingga. Apart from supporting the music brilliantly, Weckl’s majestic drum interval in Swarna Jingga simply adds to the quality of what is on offer. He is able to achieve just the right mixture of subtlety and intensity throughout his performance. Fans of progressive jazz fusion, will no doubt, shake and shiver with absolute delight at the stirring way in which the music is delivered.
Repetition is used to good effect, but is neither predictable nor monotonous. The manner in which Budjana, incorporates so many dynamic peaks into his music by using a varied range of stylistic approaches, ensures that Naurora is totally compelling. The use of repeated themes creates a familiar and gripping ambience that is instantly appealing, but when the other virtuoso elements of the music are taken into account, something that is unique and totally captivating is also formed.
Tunes like, Kmalasana have strong hooks and are never complicated or convoluted for the sake of it. Nevertheless, the music is satisfying. There are many occasions when the music takes detours and turns with vigorous intent. This keeps things interesting and helps to sharply grab and massage the senses.
Kmalasana builds slowly and threatens to charm and allure. The piece has an understated radiance and provides a soothing sunset conclusion to the album. However, Budjana’s fiercely energized solo blasts away any sun tranced stupor. The strident and emotive wailings of his guitar are summoned from somewhere deep within and as a result, this section of Kmalasana possesses the blazing fury and heated tones that are often associated with asphalt-melting- guitar-based rock fusion. It is a true highlight of the set!
Nevertheless, this impressive release has many other standout moments. The music goes way beyond any usual parameters associated with fusion. On the face of it, it is awash with accessible melodies and memorable motifs. These elements combine to give the album a superficial accessibility. Delve deeper though, and the album’s true complexity reveals itself, as hidden layers come to the fore, to reveal an album that has many ingenious parts.
Consequently, Naurora glitters and shines brightly. Its wide expansive arrangements and satisfying resonance provide a warm after- glow that gratifyingly lingers long after it concludes.
1. Naurora (11:03)
2. Swarna Jingga (06:51)
3. Kmalasana (07:05)
4. Sabana Shanti (07:50)
5. Blue Mansion (07:49)