Madeleine of Rogues – Pandu Hutomo (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Using music to change the world seems like a lofty goal but it is one that Pandu Hutomo takes one stage further on this latest album. To be honest, it is something that he does on every release but let’s just focus on this one for now. Rather than trying to change the world that he finds himself in instead, he builds new worlds from his creations to exist in, the music a kind of geography, the lyrics an oral history and then proceeds to people them with interesting characters and conjure interesting scenes and scenarios for them to navigate.

Let’s again talk about the link between Pandu Hutomo and Haruki Murakami. I know I used him as a reference point when I was talking about Biased but he seems to be the perfect parallel here. Just as his books exist in worlds that look like this one, more specifically Tokyo of the 1980s, which seem to function as you would expect and follow most of the same rules, so the world of Madeleine of Rogues feels a familiar place. But, just as Murakami slowly subverts his creations with small otherworldly tweaks and strange diversions from the norm, so does Hutomo.

From the trailers and short films that have gone out ahead of the musical release, we are given a brief, vague picture of who, or perhaps even what, Madeleine of Rogues might be. We are offered that the album is, in part, about “Stories that happened back when the world was still beautiful. They now remain as Shadows of Memory on the neon alleys of our Reforged Reality…”  and it is suggested that the title character finds herself in our world, and is ready to fight for it so that we might remember how things used to be, But this is not her world.

And from there, intrigued but not much the wiser, all you can do is take a deep breath and dive into the sonic waters of the album and learn to swim.

We hit the water in a place called Milk Tea, Hot Babes and are immediately reminded that Pandu Hutomo has an uncanny nack of sounding like all manner of underground British post-punk bands, not the obvious point of reference for a young guy from Jakarta, but thanks to technology, the world is a small place, so why not? Also, from what we have already seen of Pandu Hutomo we are already aware of his magpie-like ability to pick up shiny objects wherever and whenever they catch his eye. (The shiny objects in this case being musical inspirations, ideas and reference points.)

If the opener sounded not unlike The Pop Group, by the time we get to Felicia, things have moved on and we find a song the equal of any modern-day indie outfit trying to lean in and woo the pop crowd and then Secrets Stops throws us the curveball, reminds us that Pandu is not some British, indie kid from the suburbs of Manchester, a delicate duet which blends balladic western forms with eastern and slightly exotic musical motifs.

Children of the Moon warps indie cool and slow K-pop vibes into a warped and wonderful song of no fixed musical abode. On reflection, most of his music has a restless and multi-cultural feeling as if the creation of someone unsure of where their home is. Madeleine is a slinky blend of hushed ambience and driving explosions, dance poise and edgy alternatives and My Love Has Grey Hair is the sort of subversive pop-rock which the world needs right now.

Okay, I’ve droned on for a bit, well, typed on but that doesn’t have the same ring to it, but that is because I find writing about the artist, his approach, eclecticism, otherness, unwillingness to play by the rules and general musical acumen, as exciting as, if not even more so than, the music. Actually, I might just let others dissect his music from now on and start work on the biography of the artist…or the graphic novel…or the musical theatre production…or the opera…or the dance routine… or the script for a Netflix series based on his creations…or…

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