Biased – Pandu Hutomo (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

I shouldn’t be surprised that a music maker based in Jakarta seems to channel about half of the bands I was watching and listening to as far back as the ’80s. The world is a small place. A connected place. A place where influences and ideas ebb and flow across both time and geography. It’s the world that I always yearned for…yes, yearned for, when I was growing up in tribalistic, post-punk Britain. And, thanks to people such as Pandu Hutomo, the barriers of sound and style, genre and even location are a thing of the past.

Biased is his latest release, a maxi-single, and a continuation of the No Country For Old Boys series, and I have to admit that it is a title I love without really knowing the relevance. But what is life without a bit of mystery, without a bit of whimsey?

We kick off with the short and scintillating introduction simply titled -3.7x – a reference to the fact that the moon is 3.7 times smaller than the Earth – a gentle, shimmering and lilting instrumental which sets us up perfectly for the two tracks to follow. It’s an intriguing start, just as the beats seem to kick into gear, as soon as there is the hint that vocal action might be on its way, the song ends, and does so abruptly. That’s called leaving them wanting more.

And more comes along immediately in the shape of the title track. Biased is a gorgeous slice of indie, something that ticks all of the boxes for use old-schoolers but which never sounds anything other than the product of the here and now….perhaps even the soon to be. It rises up, it crashes down, guitars churn, strings sweep, dynamics do their thing and soundscapes are borne, manipulated and dismissed in the blink of an eye or at least in the passing of a couple of bars.

Match Made In Heaven, its musical travelling partner, is a much stranger affair, but strange is good, right? A bassline creeps through your consciousness, shimmering shards of synth and sample are hung from them, the vocals are happy to mix and match and do so from a place embedded way below the surface of the song. Spacious, otherworldly and unmissable.

But what I always find even more fascinating about Pandu Hutomo is the way he writes about himself, the persona which he weaves around to build an extraordinary artistic avatar. Whether true or not, the idea of him being, “a runaway from an alternate timeline—a timeline where the world never shut down, where he was still the Batavian Rogue who snoops around Bangkok red districts and Hong Kong neon labyrinth,” is a story in itself.

And all of this talk of moons and city underworlds and alternate timelines makes this sound like the score to a Haruki Murakami film for a novel that he is yet to write. There is even something in the gentleness and grace of the music which matches that author’s style.

Well, at least people will know where to look for the right composer when that day comes.

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