A F I F I R A H I M • S E I K A N S A W A K I • W A N A Z R Y • Z U L H E Z A N
COMMEMORATE! SOLD OUT
ISTINGGAR SOLD OUT
BAHAWASA-NYA SOLD OUT
#71 • August 28, 2016 - Rockaway Festival Pre-show x A Sunday Affair
#72 • September 3, 2016 - VANS Musician Wanted 2016
#73 • September 9-11, 2016 - RRREC Fest in the Valley 2016
#74 • September 25, 2016 - JUICE Annual Anniversary 2016
#75 • November 12-13, 2016 - Northern Music Festival 2016
#76 • November 19-20, 2016 - Rockaway Festival 2016
#70 • May 10, 2016 - Emer/Gency Japan Tour 2016
#69 • May 9, 2016 - Emer/Gency Japan Tour 2016
#68 • May 8, 2016 - Emer/Gency Japan Tour 2016
#67 • May 7, 2016 - Emer/Gency Japan Tour 2016
#66 • May 6, 2016 - Emer/Gency Japan Tour 2016
#65 • May 5, 2016 - Emer/Gency Japan Tour 2016
#64 • May 4, 2016 - Emer/Gency Japan Tour 2016
#63 • April 22, 2016 - Emer/Gency Japan Tour 2016 Pre-Show
#62 • April 3, 2016 - PAT. PEND. #1
#61 • April 2, 2016 - Degaruda: Live in Penang
#60 • February 20, 2016 - Southeast Asian Tour 2016 / Live in Manila
#59 • February 14, 2016 - Southeast Asian Tour 2016 / Love Fight Fest
#58 • February 13, 2016 - Southeast Asian Tour 2016
#57 • February 9, 2016 - Southeast Asian Tour 2016
#56 • February 8, 2016 - Southeast Asian Tour 2016 / Kita Memang Benar Benar Melayu
#55 • February 6, 2016 - Southeast Asian Tour 2016
#54 • February 5, 2016 - Southeast Asian Tour 2016 / Boja Krama #1
#53 • February 3, 2016 - Southeast Asian Tour 2016
#52 • February 2, 2016 - Southeast Asian Tour 2016 / Schizo Let's Go
#51 • January 31, 2016 - Southeast Asian Tour 2016 / "SUPERBAD!" Vol. 72
#50 • January 30, 2016 - Southeast Asian Tour 2016 / Saritilawah Vol. 2
#49 • January 24, 2016 - Southeast Asian Tour 2016 / Live in Bangkok
#48 • January 23, 2016 - Southeast Asian Tour 2016 / Soundscape Recs 15th Anniversary
#47 • December 18, 2015 - My Disco: Severe Album Tour
#46 • November 8, 2015 - Emer/Gency Tour
#45 • November 7, 2015 - Emer/Gency Tour
#44 • November 6, 2015 - Emer/Gency Tour
#43 • October 23, 2015 - I Love You Orchestra: Malaysian Tour
#42 • August 30, 2015 - Friends from Japan: DAM & Paranoid Void Malaysian Tour
#41 • August 29, 2015 - Singapore Night Festival 2015: Tribal Gathering of Jaw Benders
#40 • August 8, 2015 - The Wknd Sessions Live
#39 • June 14, 2015 - C! Album Tour 2015
#37 • June 7, 2015 - C! Album Tour 2015
#20 • February 28, 2015 - Dirgahayu: Live in Singapore
#19 • February 7, 2015 - Catch These Men: Kyoto Protocol's Album Tour
Time Out KL: The top 30 local tracks of 2015
Text Jarrod Sio Jyh Lih
COGENT MATH ROCK
Dirgahayu’s genius lies in the way they sonic-pile each song with abandon, architecting one layer of complexity at a time; and right at the event horizon of pretension, pulls the reins back with punk restraint and with much gnashing of teeth. Take the titular track ‘Commemorate!’ for instance. The double tapping segues into a conflagration of hammer-ons and pull-offs before launching into a lacerating Townshend-like guitar riff. Following this is a rapid-fire snare attack by Seikan Sawaki, whose drumming – shifting and stopping in medias res with mischievous intent – is capacious enough in ambition to hold all these ideas in check. More importantly, Sawaki’s drumming creates this swirl of space for Wan Azry, Afifi Rahim, and Zulhezan to play off each other – reverbed guitars, synth jabs, and galloping bass in tow. All these make for a sense of urgency that ratchets the track up to a foaming zenith, and yet, to their everlasting credit and testimony to their individual virtuosity, the cup never quite runneth over.
Some of the songs smoulder – with the effects-driven interludes sounding dilatory – yet still a world away from devolving into a sluggish morass. This model of contrapuntal moodiness is preserved by an undercurrent of echo-pedalling and ambient synth-ing within the soundscape. Even during relatively introspective moments, the songs crash into one another like waves balling into fists, pummelling the shore in increasingly ominous strength. ‘Kyu / Ju Roku’ has the unenviable position of opening the album and true to form, sets about establishing the tone of Commemorate!. The track alludes to the time signature of the track, which means ‘9/16’ in Japanese. Given drummer Seikan Sawaki’s half-Japanese stock, this tribute to his heritage is a sweet gesture. That aside, Tycho-like guitar noodling writhes in luminescence against a background of antediluvian clangour, organic pandemonium, and a delightfully brief if stuttering riff that recalls, among others, Mars Volta’s discursive moments.
‘Bahawasa-nya’ (the song performed in the video referenced earlier) neatly encapsulates the disciplined vigour and leviathan power that belie the paucity of its membership. Utilitarian and divested of sonic fat, the song rushes out of the gates foaming – inveighing against an illusory, bloated nemesis. The central psychological insight here can be seen in their affinity for faux-‘50s Malay lingo (exemplified by their name and song titles). This suggestion of a bygone, tamer age not only excites interest, but stands in stark juxtaposition against the power exerted by tracks such as opener ‘Kyu / Ju Roku’, title track ‘Commemorate!’, the aforementioned ‘Bahawasa-nya’, and ‘Volumetric’. Dirgahayu’s “anarchism” is more than a mere subversion of an idealised time of innocence though. Rather, it explores the notion that all of the methodologies used in the science of their craft are limited in scope. And make no mistake, the songs on the album are monuments to Dirgahayu’s exacting, almost scientific attention to detail. What can two guitars, a synth, a bass guitar, and drums do? The answer is; a whole lot.
‘Volumetric’ bookends the album, and is the standout track. This song further showcases their virtuosity-to-a-fault worldview, with an actual guitar solo added to the mix. Muted strings, duelling guitars, and sustains linger in mid-air, awaiting collection as the drums drive the whole shebang off the proverbial cliff in a distorted, quick-picking denouement – not for them the logy strains of prog. In spite of this, the melodic ideas are never lost in the fray.
Dirgahayu’s quiet-before-the-storm junctures expose them as probable votary of that totem band for reflective sonicry; Toe. The signposts are there: The winking acoustic guitar lines, the hushed soundscape, and the expansive silvery notes. It is here that the mood turns somewhat sans souci, as if the lads were taking a break from all the machismo to mull over Monet’s water lilies.
Within the span of six songs, the lads of Dirgahayu have made a convincing report of the instrument-driven, no-vocals template and dismantled its initial fustian assumptions. Commemorate! (the album) is not only a tour de force, it is a bedlam, and what a gorgeous one, at that. Suffice it to say, if there were no math rock scene in Malaysia, Commemorate! has certainly made a cogent argument for one.
By Christopher Walker
What is Dirgahayu? And I’m not asking what the word means, because the best I was able to come up with, is that it’s an Indonesian word whose English analogue is closest to “longevity,” likely in reference to the patriotic Malaysian song ‘Dirgahayu Tanahairku’. No, what I mean is, what are these guys?
They seem like they can be all things. For me, they’re something like a retrospective of all the stuff I’ve been into since I started listening to rock and roll in the sixth grade. In no particular order: ambient post-rock space noises, bluesy psychedelic guitar solos à la Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin, that brief period I enjoyed mid-2000’s MTV-wave emo, mathy pedal-junkie-esque guitar fuckery, Russian Circles, The Mars Volta-style insanity, that one year everyone thought Wolfmother was awesome, etc.
The best part is that it never feels disjointed. It all fits together in a weirdly satisfying way, and maybe it’s just because every two minutes I was being surprised by something else from the depths of my musical history being tossed back at me, sounding just as cool as I remember it being on the bus home from school. Only, the things I used to like were not all that cool in reality, but Commemorate! makes them seem that way. There’s even a secret track at the end of the closing song ‘Volumetric’. No one does that anymore and Dirgahayu made me remember how much I missed it.
There’s actually a fun game you can play with this album, too. Don’t watch the tracklist while you listen to it and try to mark down where you think the tracks are cut. Add a point when you’re right and subtract one when you’re wrong. My final score was somewhere in the negatives. Tracks stop dead-silent midway, only to start again with a new idea and others flow seamlessly into one another. If anything, it’s trying to say that this is not a song-by-song experience, that songs are linked by theme, not chord structure.
Or maybe they’re just messing with us.
By the end of Dirgahayu's DUNCE-organised gig at Lithe Paralogue, guitars were perched precariously atop amps,
A BROTHERHOOD TO BEDLAM
SCENE THERE, DONE THAT
ONWARD TO JAPAN
LOCKED AND LOADED
5 QUESTIONS w/ THE WKND: DIRGAHAYU
1) It is believed that Dirgahayu is a band derived from former members of Akta Angkasa and Custom Daisy. How did Dirgahayu start as a band and what inspired you to make music together? Musical backgrounds etc.,
Zul: We got the three of us together in July 2013 (well that was only 9 months ago), rehearsed for the first time and never looked back. I’ve personally been knowing Yie and Efy for many years, so the chemistry between us is effortless. By exhanging riffs and ideas to push the envelope a bit, Dirgahayu was in shape and we’re just keep going ever since.
2) The instrumentation for ‘Bahawasa-nya’ was mind-blowingly intense, and high-energy. What bands or artists have primarily influenced your sound and the direction you’ve taken for this single? Who do you take inspiration from?
3) Dirgahayu has caught a lot of attention since ‘Bahawasa-nya’ was released last year. The track has been aired on a local radio, BFM, and you guys managed to play on a nationwide tour to promote the single. How would you best describe how much the band has grown musically and do you see that growth mainly coming from touring, recording or something else that helped you evolve?
5) Can you tell us what have your experiences been like previously touring nationwide and what states most stood out to you in terms of fostering a good musical environment, and why?
Yie: It depends on how you define ‘good musical environment’. We had different experiences in each states we went to, in terms of the audience, venue and of course how well we performed that day. To choose one, I’d possibly pick on our second stop of the tour. It was held at River Pirate Park where we performed on the banks of Sungai Melaka impeccably under a bright moon and stars. Astonishing view, nice chilly weather and good vibes – perfect combo. However we played a very short set that evening; something we’ll surely make up for, one day. There are hundreds of ways you can always discover from band travelling e.g. meeting new friends, performing to a new crowd, checking out other cool bands, scoring good (authentic) food, show organiser went MIA, etc. The list seems endless.
If you’re observant enough, you can find different pieces on Dirgahayu written in previous issues of JUICE dating as far back as late last year. So you can trust that we’ve been following this local instrumental math rock four-piece since the day we saw them play. We were well taken aback by their prowess and musicianship, as well as their manic compositions that sound as heady as they are to write about. Having been in different bands beforehand though, they understood the value of appearance. The guys of Dirgahayu have always strived to form a well-rounded entity that embraces not only sound and performance, but also the value of attractive presentation, be it their music videos, the medium in which they release their oeuvre, and more. Dirgahayu is certainly the whole package. To commemorate (apologies!) their meteoric rise that had them touring the Land of the Rising Sun and the release of Commemorate!, JUICE spoke to drummer Seikan Sawaki and guitarist Zulhezan about the concept of their debut album, Malayan history, and their strenuous songwriting process.
JUICE Malaysia • August 2015
The way you guys perform is not very conventional; oftentimes you guys have your backs towards the crowd. Is that due to shyness or is it a way to draw people in further to focus on the music?
Is there a particular reason why you guys like to play in a circle?
Do you guys synchronise your power moves on stage? From where we stand in the audience, we’re pretty sure you guys eye each other before you whip your respective instruments. In a piece from JUICE Singapore, the band was quoted saying “… Believe it or not, they’re planned steps.”
Each of you guys came from different bands before there was Dirgahayu. When this band was formed, did you guys want Dirgahayu to have such a strong concept?
Is it easy to meld all these individual ideas and sounds?
Can we talk about the hidden track in ‘Volumetric’? Why did you guys decide to put that on the album?
So that day, they just gave you the score sheet and you just played?
Where did you guys get the Japanese sample from?
Oh! So the sample was from the Japanese Occupation! We’d thought it’d be offensive to ask… Seikan, being half-Japanese, how did you feel about the inclusion of the sample?
It must have been complicated for you because you were feeling this guilt but on the other hand, you were happy they wrote this welcoming song for you right?
Did that sample and the want to present the accuracy of historical facts shape the album or did it all just added to it?
Did it start the whole album or did you guys already have in mind to focus on this period of history?
Do you guys think people didn’t pay much attention to the Japanese Occupation?
You were teased the worst by the Chinese kids at school right, Seikan?
Could you tell us why the singles ‘Istinggar’ and ‘Bahawasa-nya’ were released on cassettes? What was the message or objective that you guys wanted to portray by releasing them in that medium? We also know that Akta Angkasa used to do that.
From the music videos, hand-sprayed cassettes, and printed sleeves to the limited edition debut album that’s made with Japanese army wear fabric — why do you guys put so effort in presenting such a nice—as Zul said—package or product as a band?
What do you think about people who are like, “You’re musicians, you should focus on the music, and not about all this.”
The songs are always so intricate; it’s often described as “contained chaos.” How do you guys try to balance wanting to compose better songs but still not overdo it with the riffs and sudden rhythmic changes?
Do you guys find writing this sort of highly charged, technical songs to be creatively draining?
Do you guys think the technicalities of the songs could overshadow the concept of the album? Would it be too much for people to digest?
Zul, we hope Akta Angkasa is not a touchy subject for you, but if you put Dirgahayu and Akta Angkasa side by side, they both have the same nationalist visual identity. So when Akta Angkasa disbanded, was Dirgahayu a continuation of that? Hence its meaning ‘long live’?
Commemorate! is out now via Soundscape Records.