Ligro: Dictionary 2
  • Production
  • Composition
  • Musicianship
  • Freshness
  • Ultra Entertaining Drumming

Being one who is quite unfamiliar with most music from Asian countries, Indonesia’s jazz-rock trio Ligro completely stormed me by surprise and made me ask myself how is it that I had never before heard of this group of astonishing musicians. Made up of guitarist and founding member Hamzah and his collaborators Darmawan on bass and Hendy behind the kit, Ligro manages to stun with its first international release, Dictionary 2, a full on assault of aggressive jazz-rock that rarely holds anything back.

As Dictionary 2 opens up with “Paradox,” I was immediately hearing a style that made me grin just like the first time I’d ever heard the Italian jazz-rockers Deus Ex Machina. Quickly, however, Ligro’s own unique style began to emerge as loads of subtleties opened up in the drumming on the calmer parts of the track and Hamzah revealed his broad ability to incorporate distinctive tonalities and make use of all kinds of dissonant note choices in ways that enhanced the feel of the piece. Following “Paradox,” “Stravinsky” kicks it off with a JS Bach rendition on bass before moving into a highly original interpretation of Stravinsky’s “An Easy Piece Using Five Notes” that combines elements of jazz, surf rock, and frantic drumming to deliver a jam session worthy of Igor’s name.

The next couple of tracks, “Future” and “Don Juan” take the band into a bit more relaxing rock and jazz territory based around a lot of catchy bluesy riffs and licks before getting crazy once again with “Bliker 3” (don’t let the somber, yet very cool, piano intro fool you into thinking this one will be one you can snooze to). After a dark intro, Hendy starts us off to the sound of some very tasty drumming which leads that track into an eventual menacingly doomful middle section, full of creaky, nightmarish noises. Up to this point, I had begun to realize how much of a gifted drummer this Jakarta trio boasts in the form of Gusti Hendy. Hailing from one of Indonesia’s most successful pop-rock bands, GIGI, Hendy is an essential member, and to a certain degree, the focal point of this band. His playing, at times subtle, at other times, downright insane, had really begun to pick up throughout the album as he starts drawing more and more attention to the drums; I had fallen absolutely in love with his playing, especially on this track with all the perfect high-hat details and fills during the dark middle section and then maturely increasing in intensity towards the end of the track This would nowhere near prepare me for what was to come with the drum soloing on top an extravagant blend of eastern melodies and improvisational jazz in the second half of “Étude Indienne.” Basically what you get is just a lot of cool drum soloing, so cool that that you don’t even really care what the rest of the band is doing; It’s just plain fun to listen to Hendy’s drumming. It lasts for probably five to seven minutes, but time flies when you’re having fun!

Ligro caps off the album with a final two tracks that manage to pretty much sum up where the band has come from and what they’re all about. With an intro full of brilliant chord changes, Ligro gives a little nod to Miles Davis on “Miles Away.” Furthermore, Darmawan pulls off one of the raddest, heaviest dirty bass tones I’ve ever heard in a downright funky way before going into an epic 13 minute jam session known as “Transparansi.” Here we hear all of the trademarks of the album, from grooving bass and drums, to harsh, aggressive, and dissonant guitar-work–all held back with professional levels of restraint before finally the cannons begin to roar about halfway through the track, when the playing gets increasingly heavy and the mood becomes chaotically threatening.  “Transparansi” is a devastatingly beautiful explosion of sound, one that shows that there is a certain place where confusion becomes utter beauty.

If there’s one thing that Ligro does really well, it’s that they capture the essence of a pristine live feel on a studio recording. The band really meshes, they really feel each other’s playing, and they strike a fantastic balance between precision and freedom. Hamzah, Darmawan, and Hendy are all first class players who know how to play interesting music without forgetting that the delivery and feel of a musical line is just as important as the actual composition itself. What makes Dictionary 2 such a solid release is precisely this: these Jakarta boys really know how to play.