Riot, the debut album by the Indonesian (!) trio Tohpati Bertiga is not going to be an easy album for the regular progressive rock enthusiast. However, there's a big chance that people who like fusion will get a huge smile on their faces while listening to the album. I'm glad that record label Moonjune Records picked up this great Indonesian guitar player and composer, first with Demi Massa and Patahan, albums of his fusion band SimakDialog, and later on with his solo albums Save The Planet by Tohpati Ethnomission's and Riot. Playing as a power trio with bass player Indro Hardjodikoro and drummer Adityo Wibowo, you can consider this album to be heavy fusion.
Upload, the first song of the album, is a spontaneous and improvised composition. When the song continues, you'll notice that the bass and drums take over the melody that Tohpati started thus giving him room to excel on his guitar. When I heard this stunning opening piece, German bands like Triton and Trigon crossed my mind. Much funkier and jazzy is I Feel Great, wherein Tohpati plays a funky rhythm and the bass grooves alongside in a very pleasant way with touches of Allan Holdsworth, Scott Henderson and Frank Gambale. The title track is an impressive piece of music, wherein again the influences of Allan Holdsworth emerge, even more than in the previous song. This clearly is a kind of an ode to the master of the fusion guitar. Middle East sounds at first as a classical composition played on an electric guitar, but when you dig in deeper you'll hear the influences of world music blended with jazz-rock fusion. The clear and crispy song Pay Attention goes in another direction reminding me of the likes of Pat Metheny and even the old Tony Williams Lifetime.
The title Rock Camp indicates, like more of the song titles, the musical style of the track. Here some nice rock influences of Steve Morse and even some Brian May (Queen) riffs passed by, a very strange but interesting middle-section makes sure the song gets the attention it deserves. Absurd is just what it says, but also a showcase for bass and drums. Listening to the guitar parts it seems that the keyboards double the melody, but I guess it's a guitar synth that produces those keyboard sounds. In Disco Robot the scratching sounds are all produced by a guitar in the vein of Buckethead. I'm glad they didn't take the term 'disco' that seriously, since we get a nice powerful guitar with a funky bass accompanied by some adventurous drum work. Lost In Space is a relaxed combination of Allan Holdsworth's style of guitar playing and Robert Fripp' s mysterious guitar lines, together with hints of the old Norwegian master Terje Rypdal. Bertiga sounds as a happy song with pleasant guitar sounds and again a weird middle-section.
According to all the influences I mentioned in this review, you might think that the album contains a collection of bits and pieces, but this is absolutely not the case. Tohpati embeds the styles of all the above-mentioned musicians thus creating a musical style of his own. Riot is an excellent 'thumbs up' album that deserves a prominent place in the music collection of fusion devotees. I wonder if there are any other promising prog and fusion bands in Indonesia, since it is a fairly unknown territory when it comes to progressive music.
**** Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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