An album review by Livia Monica
The journey of the psychedelic rock Balinese band, Rollfast, began in 2011. They started with five creative minds: drummer Ayrton Willem, guitarists Bayu Krisna and Gungwah Brahmantia, bassist Arya Triandana, and vocalist Agha Dhaksa. The outcome of their creative thinking is erratic, rare, mind-boggling — in a good way. In a super good way, even. For the record, in the making of their second album, Garatuba (2020), drummer Ayrton Willem and guitarist Gungwah Brahmantia decided to leave the band after finishing all their parts. All the best to them, and all the best to Rollfast.
Rollfast may not be the band that has released five or dozens of albums before. They may not release anything in a year. Nevertheless, it is just something that boils down to you. It is something that fuels you up — waiting for the masterpiece of theirs every time they announce a release. Blame their first album, Lanes Oil, Dream Is Pry (2015), for setting the bar so high.
Listening to their first album makes you get the gist of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. It is just the kind of music you are willing to lose your head when you head-bang too much to. It is not death metal or screamo, of course. It just contains the right portion and ingredients to make it a mix — it is something that you can listen to when you are happy, sad, or angry even.
Most of Rollfast’s songs contain similar themes. The songs in the first album mostly reflect on us as individuals as if we are the subject. However, the tables have turned for Garatuba (2020). Psychedelic rock has shifted into more world music. We as individuals are not the subject anymore, but rather us in society. The album, rather than delivering rage and feelings, portrays our society instead. It perfectly captures our imperfect lives — it is a depiction of our mundane lives that serves as a critique of whoever is contributing to the chaos.
The opening track of the album, which is titled the same as the album, Garatuba, is six minutes and thirty-seven seconds of music of how youth vigor sounds. It starts slow. One minute in, then it is all zest. As drastic as the transition may sound, Rollfast totally outdid themselves with it. Whoever is listening to it will not be bothered by the transition; in fact, they will be thrilled just like how it conveys that electrifying vibe.
The title Garatuba is meant to be a character as to how it is portrayed on the album cover. It illustrates the Balinese witch leak. However, it is not leak that is supposed to scare us. Rather, it is what the leak represents that is horrifying. By analyzing the lyrics, we can assume that the song is supposed to parody the avarice of humans; the lust to always earn more with whatever it takes. It portrays the greedy investors who always have the plans to build hotels and tourism sites in every inch of Bali, without worrying a tiny bit about how the environment will be affected by it in the future. They just want to exploit and run their agenda with their illegitimate money as their lubricant to do things easier. It is similar to tourists who have nothing but extreme desire and money who feel like they run the place just because they can shut people off who will be left with no choice but to take the money — because they need it to keep on living, even if it means they have to serve under them. The worse part? They do it on purpose, repeatedly. (Lagi dan lagi [lagilagila lagilagila])
Menggigit lebih dari yang bisa dikunyah represents how the greedy investors are exploiting the environment and people, hence causing permanent effects in the long run, more than what they can handle. Air yang ada tak cukup redakan dahaga / atas keputusan atasan are just making it clearer. What the environment has to offer are not compatible with their lust for more. People who are doing the misdeed are just following the orders from their superiors who do not want to get their hands dirty. Classic.
However, other than the prominent idealist lyrics, the flow of the track is what makes those lyrics deliverable. The unsteady pace where the beats fluctuate is what enables us to enjoy and sink the lyrics in. The fusion of the rock guitar sound and gamelan pelog tuning makes this track a very much satisfying one. Every individual is in their world and somehow they just meet halfway. The bass is on its own, and the guitar just sounds like running after the drum beats. It creates a sense of rush and eventually, enjoyable held-back chaos as it all dives down in the half of the track. As a starter, this sets the bar quite high.
The second track, Pajeromon, is arguably the most well-known track on the album. It was released on Valentine’s Day in 2020, although the song does not embody any romance as it is meant to criticize the toxic masculinity and the so-called douchebag role nowadays. If you guessed that Pajeromon is a made-up name of something as simple as the car Pajero Sports and another word, yes it is taken from Pajero the car and romon. But, no, it is not that simple. Who would have guessed that a car could so much represent a well-off monster in metropolitan cities?
Rollfast perfectly utilized the assumption that there are many presumptuous older men who drive Pajero to criticize the caste in friendship based on how much material they have. This occurs a lot in the big cities. Romon means dirty, and jero also means something in Balinese culture: a noble title for someone who has high morality.
We could hear that there are not many cymbals used in Pajeromon and if we listen carefully, we could notice that they used kendang jawa to complete the drums. They even described this song to fall into the “rock pelog-psyche” genre, if that makes sense. Well, if we listen to the track until the end, it makes so much sense to the point we just feel difficult to elaborate on it to other people. We just feel so.
It is not difficult to find out why this track portrays masculinity or sounds masculine. The all-on-point lyrics described themselves, with the use of characteristics or stereotypes of the men portrayed. Prostitution is mentioned (komandan bagi bantuan langsung berupa / cinta merah muda), the vulgarity in menjelma binatang di lantai mangsa / mengkristalkan hasrat kuasa ereksi maskulinnya, and the mention of the beverage Kuku Bima who is often associated with manliness. Other than that, the overall sound that each musical instrument makes is what gives birth to the fullness, totality, and thickness of Pajeromon.
This album is about inclusivity as how is illustrated in the third track, L.D.R. It is the abbreviation of a long-distance relationship and is usually used to describe couples who live a thousand miles apart. However, in this unpredictable world, the meaning of any term can be shifted and interpreted into something else that, we never realized before, is similar. It is not always about the physical distance anymore, but the main concept of Rollfast’s L.D.R is the relationship between humans and genies or demons. To refer to something much newer, it could also represent the fictitious relationship of wibu (fanatic fans of anime) and waifu (the anime character who is often romanticized by humans). Everything now is inclusive and we care less about boundaries. We just choose our own comfort regardless of what may oppose us.
The ending of Pajeromon is connected to the starting of L.D.R, which makes this track even more special. This is probably the most romantic track of the album if you are willing to impress your partner with a song that contains a little bit of peculiarity. Nevertheless, it is a good representation of how a relationship should be; even though two individuals are different, if they are meant to be and perfectly placed at the same time, they will be.
Just like how Rollfast cautiously mixed modern and traditional music elements; we can hear the jegog (gamelan made of bamboo because Balinese have to borrow the royalty if they want to play the actual gamelan) sounds starting from the half of the track and our subconscious minds just get along with it to enjoy the whole song. We will not even realize that the lyrics are all about infiltrating dimensions just to meet our loved ones that we would die for just because we feel a sense of connection with them. Nevertheless, we should give Rollfast an applause for inserting these lines yang dikekang kini membangkang / cari perhatian / sumber nafas pun ditebang. With the way the musical instruments convey it, we will not realize that those lines mostly refer to environmental misdeeds and they do not really align with the others.
Similar to the transition from Pajeromon to L.D.R, the transition from L.D.R to the nine minutes Grand Theft Atma is smooth, although not as suave as the former. Grand Theft Atma, taken from the console game Grand Theft Auto, is the climax of the album. It is the longest, the wildest, and the best fit made up of abstracts from different instrumentals. The boundaries between traditional and modern music elements are blurred, they just mix up to create an irresistible fusion that not everyone may enjoy.
This is the one track that has the most traditional music elements, probably to chaperon the horrifying lyrics. Grand Theft Atma, in summary, talks about myths and the practice of witchcraft. However, who knows that Rollfast actually intends to tuck in the spirit of feminism in this song? This is supposed to be an antithesis of the masculinity in Pajeromon. It is undeniably unpredictable because the track will shift our focus to its horror and the vibe that seems to be able to construct a physical surrounding with the combination of lyrics and instruments.
Atma means soul or jiwa in Indonesian. The idea of writing it as Grand Theft Atma is to create an image of how the game will turn out to be if it is brought to Bali in real life. It successfully delivers the portrayal of life in Bali, particularly the mystical part. It combines everything and boundaries are broken. It deconstructs Balinese traditional music elements and takes a piece of each to combine it with modern music. It serves as a bridge between traditional and conventional music nowadays.
The first time of listening to this song can be upsetting. It makes us wonder and suddenly asks the 5W+1H questions right away. What is this? Why are they doing this? Where did they get the inspiration from? How is the process of creating this song? When has this been going on in their minds? The truth is, we never get to fully know the answers even after listening to them about a hundred times. Only Rollfast who has the keys to all those answers, and that kind of mystery is doing this song a good deed. It keeps the mystery alive while we constantly listen to this song to find out about it. After listening to it for so long, we realize that we do not listen to it just to find the answers to our questions anymore. Strangely, we start enjoying it without fully comprehending what is going on.
The gamelan sounds are derived from the actual instruments and processed with the software Logic and Ableton. It adds more to the reasons why this song feels alive. However, we are once reminded again that it is all surreal with the arrival of the woman from Google Assistant. Yes, instead of using their own vocals, they decided to use the Google Assistant voice, hence creating the interpretation that this witchcraft that has been the topic of the song, has penetrated into our digital world. We may have been progressive with our technology, but there are just some things that never die. The second verse, 100 meter lagi / hindari kuburan, jumpai perempatan / kendaraan tanpa awak melintas / tentu bukan kecerdasan / beda haluan imitates the Google Maps voice who often directs us into places. Instead of directing us, it rather informs us about the existence of spirits of the dead with the mention of kendaraan tanpa awak (passenger-less vehicle). It emphasizes that this is not the doing of technology (tentu bukan kecerdasan / beda haluan).
What comes after represents the horrible truth and practice of witchcraft in our society. The mystical being leak often preys on pregnant women to drink the blood of their fetus or babies and it is described at the beginning of the fourth verse, berkeliling mencari suplemen instan sakti, bayi!. However, the next lines do not only represent leak, but the unbelievable misdeed of humans who are willing to go the extra mile to prey on their closed ones to get what they want, as portrayed in peduli setan siapa yang mati / keluarga sendiri adalah sasaran termudah.
The rest of the lyrics are written in Balinese, but there are some words that can be found in the Balinese Dictionary. In short, it alerts us not to walk around at 12 pm and 12 am as leak mostly exists at those times. It also illustrates the ngaben ritual who is often escorted by the musical instrument gender. However, if we look closely at it again, Rollfast is being creative with the Balinese lyrics. We can see the ending of each line becomes the start of the next line. It creates an incredible flow of each line. In short, it is intelligence, creativity, feral, and freedom in our somehow-limited world. The second half of the track sounds like an anti-climax that will bring us to the next track, Bally.
Bally comes from the other names of Bali that sailors used to call it with. They used to call it Bally, Boly, or Ballie. In this track, Rollfast collaborates with a solo pianist and vocalist from Jogjakarta, Frau. Bally is totally an anti-climax to the notorious Grand Theft Atma with Frau’s angelic voice and the slow pace of it overall. Listening to this song puts us on Balinese beaches as if we are relaxing while listening to the breezy, buoyant waves. This gets us out of the dark, mystical surroundings from the previous tracks and put us in the light.
The repetitive lyrics Pulau Dewata / Surga dunia / Menurut pariwara / gelap terangnya, / rayakan saja intend to denounce the abundance of tourism billboards in every inch of Bali. The decision to put this track after Grand Theft Atma is a strategic one. It is the type of music that we would want to listen to when we are mad after we express our rage in the previous track, but this time, to let the waves wash our anger off.
As if it is not enough, Rollfast is still willing to give us another two to listen to when we just want to be furious and criticize things through our anger. Methanol and McTanol are the two inseparable tracks. They work as a team to portray the religious and life values that have been blurred over the years with the arrival of technology that puts the young on air. It fills inside the head too much that it starts to get big, even big enough to make them feel like they are so wise to judge the culture and values that have been lingering way longer than them. Many youngsters disregard and leave the culture to rot and become mere memories because they think that those are not up to western standards.
It took off from the idea of the purity of Balinese wine (arak). When combined with another substance — in this case, methanol (usually people mix arak with spiritus or rubbing alcohol) — the purity subsides and it becomes polluted. Balinese Tri Hita Karana, the source of their prosperity, has been replaced with the so-called westernized values that nowadays people think are cool enough to replace such an institution.
McTanol is the only track of the album that sounds similar to Rollfast’s first album, Lanes Oil, Dream is Pry. It still utilizes the heavy rock, only this time to be combined with the lyrics in Indonesian and their meaning. However, it provokes curiosity on why Methanol is placed before McTanol, knowing that the former is the sequel of the latter. Technically speaking, Methanol would be more proper to be listened to after McTanol because the former sounds like an emphasis of the last verse of McTanol.
Raré, featuring Gardika Gigih, serves as a calm closure to the album. It is instrumental only, and was formerly written by vocalist Agha Dhaksa for his kid (for your information, rare means baby or bayi in Indonesian). Raré is composed, it is the combination of each musical element kind of widens our horizon and mind when we listen to it. After fighting, criticizing, and contributing to the chaos, we all could dive down and lay ourselves on top of the soothing sand on a beach.
Overall, the album Garatuba has an almost perfect of everything. At first, Bally seems like out of place, though. We were in the middle of a battle, why would we slow down? However, even in wars, soldiers get to rest even if it is just for a little while. Thus, perhaps Bally serves as that. Nevertheless, it would be great to see if the placement of Methanol and McTanol are reversed. It provokes curiosity as to how it would turn out if the reversal occurred so.
Personally, Garatuba is the kind of album that you just could not listen to twice in a row. All of the tracks are addictive, sure, but only if they are played separately and not directly. Listening to Garatuba feels like a long, hard, arduous battle and once we get to the end, it takes time for us to adjust and prepare ourselves to start again. Overall, this album deserves a solid 9 out of 10.
Blessed While Oppressed
By Livia Monica
We have come along
for so long
and started off strong
all in the name of song.
We have been possessed
all ideas have been addressed
our rage has been expressed
People are impressed
some may be depressed
but let’s just now rest.