When one hears the phrase “trance music,” one likely thinks of a bouncy club genre. But there’s another, far deeper type of trance music whose roots lie in complex indigenous ceremonies. This is the territory occupied by Glasgow’s Komodo Kollektif. The Euro-based location is a surprise, as the sound implies an Indonesian origin; but the quartet instead demonstrates that world music need not be confined to the nation of its origin. Two of the members are also part of the Gamelan Naga Mass ensemble, and contribute the timbres of saron, gendèr and kempul, which are rarely heard in western music. While listening to Sundada, one wonders, why is there not more music like this?
As one might suspect, the timbre is highly percussive. The metallophones and gongs of gamelan music are melded to electronics to produce a sound that is neither old nor new. Brief dronelike passages create an effective contrast to the ritualistic mallet music. “Temple Ball” includes a breakdown on sulung (Indonesian flute) that sounds like an unhurried journey through the rain forest. As the percussion returns, it is met with shouts of joy. One imagines the players camping for the night, setting up their instruments and performing a duet with the jungle, honoring the cries of hawk-eagles and macaques. The two-part “Festival of the Black Sun” drives the point home with a confident call-and-response, while the cacophony echoes across the leaves.
With a BPM of 80, this sort of trance music stands in contrast to the 140 BPM of club trance, but is far more elaborate, continually in motion, morphing with every line, each performer playing off the next. One may enter into a trance, swaying with the music, losing all track of time ~ but while the latter form of trance is often connected with psychedelics, this brand is connected to ancestral spirits, producing a form of transcendence. Some may hear traces of Bill Laswell, whose dub experiments share a similar vein; but Komodo Kollektif’s commitment to this particular set of instruments gives them a distinctive and immediately recognizable sound.
In the third and fourth parts of “Festival of the Black Sun,” one can hear multiple layers of activity, a three-dimensional field with a clear foreground and background. A higher level is reached whenever a new element is added, such as the percussive burst at 5:03 followed by the leaking clouds at 5:44. We are meant to lose ourselves in this music, to surrender to something larger than ourselves. The closing track, “Lost Forever,” combines quieter music with an intercom, implying that the ancient bleeds into the modern and can still be accessed, if we are only willing to listen. (Richard Allen)