ALBUM REVIEW: TOKO KILAT EP
Cross-border supergroup calls their music pro-rock, beckoning back to the basics of alternative with high energy drums, guitar and bass.
GENRE: PRO ROCK/ POST-PUNK REVIVAL/POST-BRITPOP Toko Kilat is a cross-border supergroup consisting of Edwin Raj on lead vocals and guitar, who used to be the lead for alternative rock band They Will Kill Us All, Irfan Iskandar on drums, who have played with several groups including Bittersweet, Relay, Da Vagabonds & ACAB, and Toya from the band Laila's Lounge. Toko Kilat brings together a myriad of influences under the alternative rock umbrella, considering how the diverse members are. Edwin Raj’s old band They Will Kill Us All has described themselves in an interview with Hype as noise pop, combining sounds from bands like The Cure and Cave In. You can find this in their singles like Siren or the slightly more post-punk stuff, Bright Lights. Irfan’s band Bittersweet has been known as part of the late 2000s indie movement that brought back the Britpop, garage rock sound especially found early singles like Capital E all the way to Bittersweet’s most recent Oasis-influenced single, Hilang. Moods, Wan’s band on the other hand, is more on the indie jazz side of things. They released an album in 2018 on Bandcamp called Selfless. You should check out the track Star in that album, it’s really chill. It’s available for preview on their Bandcamp page! That being said, Toko Kilat is NOT a Frankenstein monster of all of these different bands. Far more than just a clumsy collage of sounds, Toko Kilat’s all about going back to basics. They call their sound pro-rock, and like the name there is a very primal, classic feel to their musical ethos. It’s tightly produced, there’s a driving force to the tracks especially in more anthemic cuts like Satu Suara. There’s a very sleek, noir undertone to the whole EP too. Overall, it’s a fast-paced gripping EP that rumbles on over the span of 24 minutes throughout 6 tracks. Some have compared the music of Toko Kilat to American post-punk revival band Interpol, with basic, driving riffs, reminiscent of their Turn On The Bright Lights days, but Toko Kilat is way less cavernous. The production is jampacked without being oversaturated - the right amount of loudness and rawness. The EP takes off with the atmospheric song GEMA. I love that static transmission introduction, and the rage-filled lyrics (Semua yang kau impikan / Hanya tinggal impian). The riffs is badass and feels like a freaking machine. I also really appreciate Edwin Raj’s vocals in this track (re: the part where he sings Kau Terpedaya before the guitar solo comes in is satisfying) , which I think throws away that Interpol reference out window since Paul Banks’s whole persona is this almost robotic tinny baritone, but Edwin Raj’s vocals feels more nuanced, more fitting to the often really big arrangements in Toko Kilat’s tracks. There’s definitely more maturity in that respect.
Pemacu Api is another action-filled cut. The band has mentioned that the song tells the story about an arsonist. If you had to make a comparison to Edwin Raj’s vocal style, he’s closer to Kelly Jones of Stereophonics. Pemacu Api is also I think the first track in the EP that has whole noir illustration in its lyricism and instrumentation (Kelab malam ini dibintangi neon). Although it could literally be about an arsonist, I love the allusion to the fire of desire as well. I really like the synth breaks during the bridge, but felt the mixing didn’t do it for me, coming off as a bit too reserved.
Then there's the song “Nahas”, which is not one of the more memorable songs on its own, but still has that really suave and cool refrain where the vocals go “Hati ini, hati ini kecewa”. It was at this point in the album where I’m starting to feel like there’s a narrative going on - a storyline, or at least a milieu. A scenery filled with rainy days, slow dancing in lounges, in a black-and-white murder mystery. Ratu Malam seems to be the ultimate point for the story. The art of Toko Kilat is that they start you off with this very by-the-numbers post-punk-revival arrangement, but gradually brings you to a key change, or a different guitar passage that puts you on another high. A good example of that is Ratu Malam, when the vocals go “KEMBALIII”, you feel that momentary burst of spirit that keeps you hook. It’s a storytelling craft squeezed into a single song. The saxophones in this track just completes the atmosphere of that deadly seductress, femme Fatale vibe enticing the will of the protagonist.
The song Kabur has a subtle psychedelic vibe to it with the flanging effects on the guitar combined with an indie pop veneer that reminds me of Spiritualized , it's very distinct from the other songs. The track is so wholesome, and cosy. In the overall narrative, has the sun finally risen to disperse the haze? Based on the website, Kabur is dedicated to Edwin Raj’s father, JM Sathiaseelan and Hj Hussin, who I would assume based upon the name is Wan’s father. The lyrics in the song reflect this, contemplating a profound grief, while also consoling one's self by embracing it (HATIKU PARAH/AKAN KU TERIMA). One of my favourites in the EP.
The track Satu Suara was good when it was released a single. It feels like a stadium anthem, it's crowd-pleasing, has a roaring vibe to it. But in the context of the EP, it slightly overstays its welcome, bordering on corny even. Not a bad song but the blandest cut in the EP.
Overall, the Toko Kilat EP are solid. There's a tendency for these alternative rock to be overly produced and middle-of-the-road, but the arrangements and sense of build in each track are rugged enough to keep me on the edge. There aren't gimmicks that slap you in the face, which means Toko Kilat really servs that PRO-ROCK name well. I really appreciate the narrative tone, especially when it's at its most seductive and noir. Although it probably could have ended with the track Kabur as the optimistic conclusion, the songs individually all have a decent quality to them. . It's an EP so it doesn't hold you long enough to be tiresome. As an introduction to the rock band, Toko Kilat has proven they're good at developing a tight sound with a little bit of grit.
GEMA, KABUR, RATU MALAM
3.8 / 5