November 12, 2010

Tohpati Ethnomission-Save the Planet Review

Gather round boys and girls, your old Uncle Doug is going to pass along some words of wisdom that were passed along to him by a gypsy that discovered them at a Scottish flea market hanging underneath a sign for haggis. Those words are, “Always judge an album by its cover.” Loosely translated the phrase means that you should always judge an album by its cover. An even looser translation is when you receive an album in the mail called Tohpati Ethnomission Save the Planet andyou’re hypnotized by how cool the picture is on the album cover, you simply know this album is going to be great. I, having gone through the exact situation written of above, can tell you without a shadow of doubt that a truer statement has never been made. This album is pure genius. I should just end the review there but the local laws in my community will not allow me to end this without explaining why it is pure genius. Allow me to present my case. Tohpati Enthnomission’s album Save the Planet is like a series of small movies that present themselves as songs, very very complicated songs. It’s like taking some of Frank Zappa’s musical brilliance and adding in Thelonious Monk’s sense of timing and then putting the both of them into Tohpati’s Indonesian blender. The resulting elixir is an album of amazing progressive rock/ jazz fusion that is tighter than a Japanese hotel room. Save the Planet is so intricate that there are moments that sound like they must have taken years to put together. Boys and girls, this is pure genius.

Tohpati Ethnomission is made up of Tohpati on guitars, Indro Hardjodikoro on bass guitar, Endang Ramdan handles the Indonesian procession, Demas Narawangsa is on the drums and Indonesian procession, and Diki Suwarjiki plays the suling (Sundanese flute) and handles the soundscapes. One listen to this album tells you that these guys are all masters of their trade. The opening bass line on the first song “Selamatkan Bumi (Save the Planet)” eases you into an amazing 9 minute, perfectly orchestrated jam that never loses its direction. Did I mention this band was tight? Tophati is a guitar hero. As a matter of fact if any of these songs were to be on the video game Guitar Hero you would see a lot more people playing outside. There are times that it doesn’t seem possible to pull of what he is doing.  He playing is cleaner than a Vatican comedy show. The rest of the band is just as amazing in providing the backdrop for Tophati. The opening guitar on “Rain Forest” has got to be one of the coolest things I’ve ever heard. It quickly blends into a jazz tinged jam that sweeps you away with its recurring melodies that sound better each time you hear them. The Indonesian influence in this music is stunning and only makes me want to find more of this. It sounds very tribal at times with the percussion and on “New Inspiration” it simply breaks down at about 3 minutes in and is pure Indonesian percussion bliss.

All eleven songs on this album are so perfectly laid out and played that they hold 100 percent of your attention. There is never a dull moment for your mind to wander. I highly recommend staring at the album cover while the album plays. There are so many pieces that connect both together the music and the art that it makes for a greater experience overall. Find this album. Buy this album. Enjoy this album.

Key Tracks: Selamatkan Bumi (Save the Planet), Hutan Hujan (Rain Forest), Ethno Funk

Doug Morrissey
November 10, 2010

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