Ligro – Dictionary 2 (2012)

I don’t know too many jazz-fusion bands out of Indonesia. As a matter of fact, I only know of one, and if one is a good enough sample, then I’m ready to state that this nation out of Southeast Asia is a hotbed for vital, dynamic and just plain great sounding fusion. That’s because this one band I know about, Ligro, which backwards spell “crazy” in the native Bahasa language, is crazy good. If all they had were technique, the story might not read as well, however, these guys, who also write all their music, come up with compositions that take melodies on a thrill rides and take advantage of their ability to play through quick, swerving lines in perfect lock-step.

Agam Hamzah, guitar; Adi Darmawan, five-string electric bass and Gusti Hendi, drums make up this dangerous trio, formed in 2004. Dictionary 2, the first one with MoonJune Records, follow up on their 2008 Dictionary 1 debut. It has a “live-in-the-studio” feel. Undertaking tightly constructed compositions with barely contained looseness, the three manage to harness the extemporaneous energy of a stage performance within the context of some thoughtfully conceived compositions. Moreover, they’re influenced by many (Buckethead, Fripp, Rypdal, Hendrix) but duplicating no one.

“Paradox” charges out the gate the same way Jeff Beck’s Wired does with the drums asserting itself forcefully with “Led Boots,” and it just gets fiercer from there. “Stravinsky,” an original arrangement to Igor Stravinsky’s “An Easy Piece Using Five Notes,” begins with Hendi using the full range of his five string to play a knotty, classically-inspired procession of notes, eventually leading to Hamzah playing a solo that’s truly unique, playing notes in pairs for a good deal of it, and not slowing down much at all despite that. Hendi and Darmawan are keeping right up with him, with the drummer nearly soloing himself.

“Future” illustrates how well Ligro can modulate through changing moods their songs often call for. From a dreamy prog figure that intensifies, culminating into funky blues-rock, Darmawan’s bass solo at times impersonates a fuzzed out lead guitar. “Don Juan” captures the eclecticism of the Dixie Dregs, settling into a groove long enough so that Hamzah can impose many aspects of his varied single-line/full chordal attack. The piano intro on “Bliker 3″ is a surprise, but that comes courtesy of the song’s composer Darmawan, and the song is even more varied and capricious as the seven other songs.

“Etude Indienne” has right in the middle of it some slide guitar, refreshing in itself within fusion, but Hamzah uses the technique to engage in a little microtonal activity, too. “Miles Away” is a relatively short acknowledgement of Miles Davis’ groundbreaking work in the rock-jazz field, working on a simple vamp for most of the song much as Miles had often done. For “Transparansi,” Hendi formulates his own beat, a loping, circular rhythm at mid-tempo. The slower pace enables Hamzah to play with more contemplation, building up suspense with clipped notes that unfolds into fully throttled, three-way combustion.

A power trio with the chops and enough sophistication to pull it away from the pack, Ligro is a force to be reckoned with in any country. It just goes to show, you can find great music of any kind from any part of the world.

Dictionary 2 went on sale July 17 by MoonJune Records. Visit Ligro’s site for more info.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is a CPA and mid-level data analyst for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.