Yogyakarta's Zoo's successful concoction of its punk rock roots with a seasoning of traditional music elements makes them a beacon of the Indonesian Underground. Their debut album, Trilogi Peradaban (Civilization Trilogy) is formed by three distinct movements forged from sessions conducted in 2007/08, tracing the bands fast evolution from the Ruins-esque proto-punk of Neolithikum (New Stone Age) and Mesolithikum (Middle Stone Age) to the spontaneous folkish neo traditionalism ranting of Palaeolithikum (Old Stone Age). With 22 tracks ranging from dissonant math-rock expelled in quick Melt Banana like successions to acoustic shamanistic vocal uttering’s produced with the Skeletal framed lineup of drums, bass and Jembe, all lined with the deft vocalisations of Rully Shabara Herman telling a story of the deterioration of cultural roots in modern civilization. Released in comjunction with Tenzenmen.
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Part 1 - Neolithikum.
01 Manekin Bermesin 0:44
02 Halilintar 0:38
03 Menyudahi Gelap 0:55
04 Misantrophe 1:28
05 Kupu-Kupu 1:10
06 Berkibarlah Benderaku 1:12
07 Lalat-Lalat 2:11
08 Takluk 3:54
Part 2 - Mesolithikum.
09 Di Masa Depan 1:02
10 Merdeka 1:58
11 Buldoser 1:02
12 Kelana 3:48
13 Perang, Saudara 2:21
14 Manusia Manusia Kecil 3:02
15 Para Raksasa 1:36
16 Eskalator 4:38
Part 3 - Palaeolithikum.
17 Gisa-Gisa (Tarian Pengampunan) 0:27
18 Doa Pengampunan 1:13
19 Luluh Lantak 1:05
20 Kelak 0:50
21 Ke Medan Perang 1:44
22 Epilog: Yang Berpulang 1:53
This terrific debut from Indonesia shows how passion, rage and sorrow translate into any language. It's a concept album reflecting cultural destruction and persistence; echoing Melt Banana, Naked City, and zeuhl before devolving into folk laments with added flute.
Trilogi Peradaban consists of 22 pieces taken from three recording sessions circa 2007-2008. On the album they are divided into three distinct sections named Neolithikum, Mesolithikum, and Palaeolithikum, or New Stone Age, Middle Stone Age, and Old Stone Age. This all lasts about 40 minutes during which Zoo range from cathartic bass and drum blasts, fierce howling and jabbering, to heavy riffing, deep but abrasive melodies, pseudo-operatic bombast and peaceful acoustic ballads.
The album title means Civilization Trilogy and while this is not a blow by blow account of Indonesian history there is an underlying complexity here that had me researching. Not least, the language and the origin of certain important words. The song "Merdeka" for example is clearly a battle-cry for independence. The word itself is from Sanskrit and has come to mean "freed slave" since Portuguese and Dutch domination of the region. "Merdeka" is among the first 16 tracks which combine a punk aesthetic with the avant-rock genre "zeuhl" as pioneered by Magma. Starting out with "Manekin Bermesin" which probably means something akin to "Puppet Machine" these short, sharp, blasts of aggression use bass guitar and drumming to ignite a musical firestorm. Simple folk sounds and pacing are gradually introduced in the Middle Stone Age section; the contrast is excellent.
Christian Zander of Magma, of course invented his own language -Kobaian- whereas Zoo appear to use Javanese with snippets of Sanskrit, poetry, Islamic references and punk politics. They incorporate a traditional Aceh poem on "Kelak" which doubtless refers to the recent quest for independence in that region. I had rather hoped it was a mention of the Cardassian Damar-class destroyer starship of the Cardassian Union's Central Command in active service around the year 2376 (as per Star Trek). Oh well, we can't have everything.
"Kelak" is part of the last section of Trilogi Peradaban wherein the group exhibit signs of having been possessed by ancient ghosts who shun aggression and modern electric instruments for a mode of expression which favors acoustic sound. Here Zoo slows rhythms and supplements its spirited wailing with mournful harmony and suling (a traditional flute). Throughout the album, lead singer Rully Shabara Herman whacks the jembe (hand drum) and his distinctive voice revels in both the grinding fury of much of the record and the minimal primitivism of the Old Stone Age section.
As aforementioned, this isn't a complete map or history of Indonesia. Indeed, it could be impossible to trace a path from what scientists believe is"Java Man," through Hindu and Islamic dynasties, into European (spice-trade motivated) co-option, independence, new orders, modern democracy, and East Timor, and somehow make coherent artistic sense of Indonesia (and its 17,508 islands). The territory is now home to the world's largest concentration of Muslims. Previously it was home to the world's largest concentration of communists outside of an actual Communist regime. That was until 1965 when (with a list of names from the always helpful CIA) the military and (in the words of Tariq Ali) "Islamist vigilantes" wiped out at least a million communists and their "sympathizers." One of Zoo's songs, "Perang, Saudara," quotes the word "Babat" from Pramoedya Anata Toer, a writer from that era. I'm not sure what the word means but he apparently said as much to Dutch colonists. He was imprisoned (probably for being a leftist) but survived until his death in Jakarta on April 30, 2006.
Zoo use the word "perang" (war) quite often and their music seems to contain both cathartic anger and an accompanying desire for peaceful humanity. I suspect this is a normal reaction to hearing about times such as those when scores of genitals of murdered male communists were hung outside brothels as a warning, but it might just be a healthy rejection of MTV Asia.
"The little-known genre of zeuhl found its roots in France in the 1970s, spearheaded by the prolific and grandiose band/cult Magma. A genre that somehow managed to combine free jazz, opera, blues shouting, progressive rock, heavy metal and chamber music, zeuhl made its impact on the avant-garde music scene by showcasing the duality between bombast and primitivism.
Since the sound was forged in Western Europe, zeuhl has been flung far across the globe, with numerous bands springing up in parts of Japan and, in the case of new-school zeuhl thrashers Zoo, in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
Zoo pay homage to their zeuhl roots on Trilogi Peradaban (in English, “Civilization Triology”), the band’s latest release by Australian experimental music labels Dualplover and Tenzenmen. The album tells a story of societal devolution through the medium of highly syncopated bursts of bass and drums, frenzied vocalizations and, at its most primitive, ritual drumming and minimalistic folk balladry. The entire album lasts only 40 minutes, but contains 22 tracks.
The first 16 tracks on Trilogi Peradaban are evocative of the thrashy zeuhl sound championed by Japanese band Ruins, one of the many projects of uber-prolific drummer Yoshida Tatsuya. There is also a great deal of avant-grindcore influence, bearing similarities to the work of Melt Banana and Naked City. Much of the album's sound is made up of snaking bass lines and syncopated drumming reminiscent of a (somehow) more caveman take on the early powerviolence of Man Is The Bastard.
Across the entirety of the album, Zoo vocalist Rully Shabara Herman stands apart from the rest of the band, shouting, chattering and operatically chanting over the thrash-and-grind of his bandmates. The final part of the album is meant to convey a return to primitivism through organic percussion and neo-folk-influenced acoustic guitar arrangements that bring a calm ending to an otherwise frenzied album.
Trilogi Peradaban is an excellent, operatic take on neo-tribalism that makes a provocative statement, melding grindcore, folk and contemporary zeuhl sounds to convey a theme of societal collapse into a primal state of simplicity." 8/10 - Aaron Vilk
"What the jiminy do I know about Indonesian music?! For all I know, an intellectually-impaired single mother in Jakarta has just accidentally synthesized the mythical long-lost note of E Sharp using nothing but a roll of old electrical cord and her teeth. Perhaps some sinister and ancient cabal is sworn to protect the horrible secret of E Sharp, and now it’s up to a sassy, effeminate hairdresser on the run from the law (or is he really only running from... himself?) to protect this young woman on her perilous trek to reach Dr Reginald Q. Oboe at the Vladivostok Conservatorium of Music before the accursed note becomes self-aware and Kills Us All.
This would be my educated guess. Fortunately, it’s safe for me to assume that you come from a position of relative ignorance as well. Three in ten Australians still think Indonesia is the country most likely to invade us. Australian tourism usually doesn’t progress beyond Ed Hardy-clad douchebags projectile vomiting en masse on the despoiled shore of Kuta Beach. Clearly, this is not an environment conducive to meaningful cross-cultural exchange.
Which is a shame, really. Over the last decade, one thing above all others has gifted Jakarta with a burgeoning DIY music scene. Firstly, the most easily accessible music media is MTV Asia, a 24 hour channel hosted by an endless procession of bland, American-accented Filipino girls introducing an endless procession of bland, American and East Asian R&B artists. Any casual watcher of MTV Asia will be hard-pressed to find such an egregious use of autotune and such an abundance of prepubescent men in all-white Beaver Boys outfits anywhere else in the annals of human civilization. it’s a truism of modern music that whenever the music industry tries to enforce hegemonic tastes onto the public, the vanguard of common decency takes to the barricades with electric guitars in hand.
So it is with Zoo’s album Trilogi Peradaban, a three part punk-rock “fuck you” to the stultifying blancmange that the failing business model of the major labels keep shitting out onto the airwaves and the narrow confines of the alternatives provided by indie and DIY labels in the West. It would be easy for modern-day hipster gentry in the English-speaking world to write this sort of thing off, but some cultural perspective is necessary here – too often we forget that not everyone in the world was bowing down and praying towards Seattle five times a day in the early nineties. Trilogi Peradban is part of the same musical renaissance that we went through twenty years ago – the purest expression of Cobain’s old “punk rock should mean freedom...” line – and this defies the Arctic Monkeys-induced cynicism to which people my age have become accustomed.
Indeed, there’s very little in this album that we’d recognise as “punk rock”, beyond the second part of Cobain’s Law – “...as long as it’s good and has passion”. Passion is in abundance on this album: passion for Indonesia’s heritage, passion for the country’s instruments, and passion for the local audience over foreign interlopers in tight jeans and asymmetrical haircuts. As the album’s trilogy progresses, whatever vestige of overseas influence gradually disappears as native instruments become more integral to the songs, and esoteric references to President Sokarno’s icy relationship with Malaysia in the 1960s and the Aceh independence movement are sadly lost on anyone unfamiliar with the language. So much of it is discordant, the singer’s occasional similarities with Mike Patton after a Red Bull binge can be off-putting, sometimes it actually does sound like they’re trying to find the long-lost E Sharp, but ultimately, this album is a forebear of great things to come from our northern neighbour." by Sean Gleeson
Innerciatic Manneken menuliskan, "Ini salah satu konsep album paling terarah yang ada di tahun 2009. Rully dkk membuka paksa kedok kepalsuan kehidupan modern; Lihatlah urutan peradaban yang dijejerkan secara terbalik. Zoo bahkan bisa menggambarkan regresi kehidupan manusia dengan mempreteli kompleksitas musik; dari berisik hingga sendu, dari drum dan gitar hingga hanya gitar. Bukankah sejalur dengan ; Dari modern sampai primitif, dari Neolitikum menurun hingga Palaelithikum." Disambung kemudian dengan komentar pendek yang penuh ambisi dari Rusl Hatta, "Fantomas cabang kota gudeg minus Mike Patton!"
GOOGLETRANSLATOR [Manneken Innerciatic write, "This is one of the most directional concept albums in the year 2009. Rully et falsehood forces open guise of modern life; Look at the sequence of civilizations that lined up in reverse. Zoo can even describe the regression of human life by the complexity mempreteli music from noise to melancholy, from guitars to drums and guitar only. sejalur not with; from primitive to modern, from the Neolithic decreased to Palaelithikum. " Then connected with a short comment from the ambitious Rusl Hatta, "Fantomas gudeg city branch of minus Mike Patton!"]