Dewa Budjana, Mahandini, 2019

dewa budjana - mahandiniFrom all Moonjune artists, I think Dewa Budjana is one of my favourites. He not only is a gifted guitar player, but  he also writes songs that appeal to me because of their fluid melodies and intricate arrangements. And on his new album he surprises with enlisting Marco Minneman on drums, Jordan Rudess on keyboards and the (just as) fabulous Mohini Dey on bass. Also John Frusciante sings on 2 tracks and plays a solo. Other guests are Mike Stern (solo) and Soimah Pancawati (vocal).

Opener Crowded is a bit of a surprise, but of the pleasant kind. A rather rocking track that shows another side. Queen Kanya is a more complex but still melodic gem where Hyang Giri marries East and West in a way that should please both sides too. All musicians also shine in a solo spot here.
Well, actually these musicians not really need a special spot to shine, because their talents are unmistakeable. But where several label mates prefer free form improvisations, with Budjana’s music it always seems to be composed. This gives the music a more clear direction and makes it more easy (for me) to enjoy it. So you try listening to Jung Oman and resist the beautiful playing, fuelled with emotion.

Yes, every of the 7 songs on offer highlights different aspects of the mix of  progrock and fusion. With releases like this, Budjana firmly remains high on my favourites list.

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Dewa Budjana, Zentuary, 2016

dewa-budjana-zentuaryOne of my favourite Moonjune Records artists, Indonesian guitarist Dewa Budjana, has found a new home in Steve Vai’s Favored Nations label. And while I don’t know if that was such an extra inspiration, the result is we now have a 2 disc album on our hands. And looking at the guest musicians list, things must be going well! I mean, Gary Husband, Tony Levin, Jack Dejohnette and Guthrie Govan to name a few. Not bad!

So on the the music. Both disc’s hold 6 songs and clock around 50 minutes. The reason I like Budjana’s music so much is that he always writes great melodies that easily capture your attention. Not something simple as this is mostly instrumental music. Yes some tracks have vocals, but for the larger part they serve as an extra melody instrument. From disc one I totally enjoyed songs 4-6, Suniakala, Dear Yulman and Renangat Langit. These are prime examples of the beautiful music these men are capable of.
Alas the rest of disc one, and most of the music on disc two, is of a more abstract level. The musicianship is of the highest quality (as usual), but the themes are just less obvious and there are tons of improvisations going on. This makes it harder for me to connect to the music. Of course parts here and there are still attracting my attention fairly easy, like in Manhattan Temple and Dedariku, but overall I think I still need to spend more time with the music to let it sink in.

So am I disappointed? Not really, even if I would have preferred a single disc with the best songs on it. But the quality on offer is always too high to ignore. It just needs time and effort!

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Dewa Budjana, Hasta Karma, 2015

dewa budjana - Hasta KarmaIndonesian guitarist Dewa Budjana (Moonjune Records) has been featured here a couple of times before, his previous one is here. But there are 2 more on the blog. One thing I admire about him is the ability to write songs that connect instantly with the listener. Where a lot of his label mates need you to invest serious time in their release, Budjana has you tapping along in seconds. His themes and melodies are refined and attractive and he cleverly places them within the song structures.

His playing and that of his fellow musicians is without doubt of a high calibre, no matter the more accessible nature of at least part of the songs. And yes, there are pieces here and there where improvisation takes over. But that is the way it should be, we are talking about fusion after all. So Joe Locke on vibraphone, Antonio Sanchez on drums and Ben Williams on delicious upright bass not only provide a base for Dewa to excel on, they add a lot to the whole of the album as well.

The 6 songs (52 minutes) of Hasta Karma are a joy to listen to. And really, there is no need to tell you more. In the genre, I regard this as one of the best available and one able to cross bridges. I am sure that people that like adventurous music will have fun with this, as well as progressive addicts. Try it!

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Dewa Budjana, Surya Namaskar, 2014

dewa budjana - surya namaskarFirst, before I get them breathing down my neck, the artwork clearly shows involvement of Jimmy Johnson (bass) and Vinnie Colaiuta (drums) on this new album from Indonesian guitar wizard Dewa Budjana. Just not enough room in the title for all those names. Several from Budjana´s previous outings have already been discussed on this blog and I am only too happy to write some words about this one as well.

Why you ask? Well, first we are talking about some very fine musicians playing together. They also have some guest like Gary Husband and (oh wow) Michael Landau. And besides that, the most striking thing is the ability to write memorable songs with enough melodies and hooks to grab your attention from the start. Because we all already know they are great on a technical level, but in my humble opinion, when technique becomes the target instead of the means, that is when things start to go wrong.
So very happy with the way this one is delivering. Even when sometimes they let it rip, it does not take them long to return to those themes that are pleasing on the ears. Resulting in an album that might rank among the best Budjana has released so far. In my opinion a must for anyone into memorable fusion, spectacular playing, or if you are willing to broaden your musical horizon. Leonardo from Moonjune Records has done it again!

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Dewa Budjana, Joged Kahyangan, 2013

dewa budjana - joged kahyanganIndonesian guitar maestro Dewa Budjana was featured amongst these pages not so long ago and I found the warmth and musicianship on Dawai In Paradise of the highest calibre. So it is nice finding another Budjana album on my doorstep. Again accompanied by some jazz greats (Larry Goldings on organ and piano, Bob Mintzer on sax and clarinet, Jimmy Johnson on bass and Peter Erskine on drums) we are treated with 8 tracks that might even top the previous CD.

Part of that is due to the vocal song  As You Leave My Nest where Janis Siegel stars on. A lovely and intense if laidback tune that creeps under your skin. And that sensation happened to me more often. Now matter how stellar all musicians are, at the end of the day I want to be touched by music and emotion, and not by some fingerlicking impressive shredfest. And any band that can perform songs like the title track or Borra´s Ballad with such finesse and projection, achieves just that. And that is not saying other songs are less. No, even if this is music that is way beyond some peoples´ comprehension (used as they are to only bubble gum pop), I am confident that anybody willing to infest the time, will be rewarded with an album they will never let go of. Impressive, MoonJune Records clearly know what they are doing…

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Dewa Budjana, Dawai In Paradise, 2013

dewa-budjana-dawai-in-paradiseNext up in this run of MoonJune releases is this album by Indonesian guitarist Dewa Budjana. Well there are a lot of other musicians involved, most notably Dave Carpenter and Reggie Hamilton on bass and Peter Erskine on drums. And while this is a current release, 5 tracks were recorded in 2011 and the other 7 somewhere between 2000 and 2005.

Well all that had little to do with quality as this is timeless music. Opener Lalu Lintas, might send you on the wrong track, for parts of it contain large amounts of shredding, but the track also lets you catch a glimpse of simple but beautiful melodies, and refined musical interplay. It is also obvious that this is a mix of styles and not all about guitar. There is progressive rock, world music, fusion and jazz on board. And it still sounds coherent.
Next track is Gangga and that opens with some beautiful nylon stringed guitar playing. A voice adds eastern melodies without words and then the song really takes off with a attractive instrumental melody. That melody is sometimes counterparted, and sometimes supported by vocals. Again a track that shows great musical ability but mainly touches you on an emotional level. There are more tracks that combine Eastern and Western influences and melt those into something melodic, sometimes esoteric, sometimes with some force behind it. Because of the moodshifts, the variety of lead instruments (guitar, bass, flute and the use of the voice), I found this a very warm and entertaining album that is a pleasure to listen to. Something you should definitely look into!

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