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RELEASE DATE: 27 APR 2020 GENRE: POST-ROCK / INSTRUMENTAL / AMBIENT / EXPERIMENTAL Post-rock with a clear direction & concept encompassing violence and war; although with unfortunate trenches along the way.
Runut Dalam Jeda is KL band MIM’s latest EP. Roughly translated from Malay to “Scores/Soundtracks In Silence” or “Appearances In Pauses” (the word “Jeda” is hard to translate in context, but the word “intermission” is probably the closest), the EP predominantly contains familiar post-rock themes for post-rock fans, but also a lot of intriguing experimentation in ambience with a smattering of prog-metal. There are thematic concepts that slowly unpacks itself throughout the length of 6-tracks, namely war, isolation and death, to put things simply. According to their Bandcamp, MIM was formed in 2015 and they’ve cited many influences like jazz, metal, soundtracks, and rainforests. Over the years, they’ve been trying to trim their sound to solidify the aspects that work. You can hear this endeavour in their previous releases like the 2019 Cassette Store Day split, Notion & Impulse , with KL post-metal band, De Fusion. In fact, the split EP contains some early versions of two songs that are in Runut Dalam Jeda , ‘Demon’ & ‘Exequy’ (which used to have really long titles).
In their latest EP, you get tracks of alternating lengths with an instrumental palette that is big in magnitude but not in diversity, which isn’t always a bad thing since narrowing things down sometimes work better when it comes to realising a concept. But in reviewing and relistening to ‘Runut Dalam Jeda’, I gotta talk about post-rock a bit and why it’s a totally different animal to tackle review-wise. Different from many popular versions of rock or other genres. At the same time, there’s a lot to be extracted from post-rock that can be used as a lens to look at other music. For a large portion of my life, I thought post-rock was dull. I remember falling in love with Explosions in the Sky only because the person I liked was into them but then I eventually really grew into it (...*cue Beauty and the Beast* tale as old as time). I also remember my peer-pressure-suggestible teenage self feeling instantly repulsed by it when another friend of mine listened to First Breath After Coma and commented: “What is this, there’s barely any music, why isn’t anyone singing, this is stupid”. As an idiotic adolescent with significantly low(er) self-esteem, it was hard to go back to Explosions In the Sky after that. But then as with most past love, you fall back into it eventually, especially when no one’s looking and you’re feeling particularly alone. In that revisiting, I was introduced to Mogwai, or the rougher edges of This Will Destroy You, the pretty ethereality of Sigur Ros; bands that were a thousand times more ambitious than EITS. The pinnacle of my relationship with post-rock so far is, of course, Godspeed You! Black Emperor with that record.
Throughout this very surface-level genre journey, I also discovered a lot of cool instrumental Malaysian acts like mutesite, Deepset, and Dirgahayu (some here are more math rock than others). The main thing I’ve acquired from all of this is the interesting subset of experimentation that post-rock occupies. A space that shares a lot with genres like ambient or drone. The experimentation is less about virtuosity or even technical proficiency (see: prog rock, symphonic rock, old school Cream/Hendrix stuff), but more about texture and timbre.
Oh the piano on this track. Taib jiddan.
For example, how the guitars sound. It's about the tone that it takes to convey a 'feeling'. Not how many chords you can play in 5 seconds, but how you can make one chord evoke 5 emotions. Often, this means that a lot of post-rock aficionados fall into this abyss of monotony. Using hackneyed riffs to convey the same shill. Post-rock doesn’t lend itself well to straight-up imitation at all, unlike hardcore or pop-punk, where the performative uniqueness or personality of your band can make up for your ‘purported lack of musical originality’. It’s about crafting atmospheres. What other samples, production tricks, effects or sonic quips can you use to enhance it. Apropos to the EP title, it’s almost the same process a film composer goes through. Immersion is key. It’s hard to create that, it really is. Especially when sometimes the purpose of a post-rock track is to be unobtrusive. To fade into the background - just enough, not to totally disappear. At the end of the day, the review then has to be about how all of these arrangements make you feel. Even though we all know Mr Subjectivity is the main character in any art criticism, I feel like it gets harder with art that’s not supposed to grind you down or build you up, but simply there to ‘be’. Realising this made me think about “why” I thought a lot of post-rock is boring. And why it’s fun to try and examine that view (like what I do with a lot of genres) So really, this review is going to be about what I feel the intent of each of these tracks are, and whether they do anything for me. Subsequently, I’ll do the same for the EP as a whole. In Runut Dalam Jeda, I will say first and foremost that they are not in that aforementioned abyss of monotony. In the time allocated for this EP, MIM has shown that they know how to make the most out of a minimalist AND a maximalist soundscape. Tracks like ‘Inter-Debacle’ or ‘Pre Ghost’ show the nuance they can apply even to a quite desolate song. But you also have ‘epics’ with a lot of movements and chapters in this EP that are as enjoyable, like ‘Demon’.
They’re a band that gives the impression they know the importance of layers (*insert Shrek memes*) in post-rock songwriting. Harnessing something within the song that ascends or crashes down where people can anticipate or internalise. Although most of these ideas are tried and true, there are some really effective executions of these ideas.
The first track drew me in pretty fast as an ambient prelude. ‘Pre-Ghost’ uses the haunting sound of feedback to create this windy tunnel feel with a few faint lines of screaming. It’s effectively eerie and honestly a very short-lived masterpiece of dark ambient. After that, you get straight to that maximalist side of the EP.
‘Demon’ almost feels like a stadium rock piece with a very in-your-face sense of largeness. The whispered voices in the background in the second half of this are tastefully used to convey a sense of suppressed panic. Probably to signify some type of battle with your inner demons and the many voices in your head like the title suggests. The strength of ‘Demon’ is the cool balance between the fuzzy, raw guitar lines in the second leg and your usual chiming post-rock guitar tones. The bass line in this track has a lot of body too, but just enough to not disrupt. I love the little chopped guitars at the end too which sounds like a wailing cyborg siren. A satisfying conclusion to a good track. ‘Inter-Debacle’ goes on a different path with some stellar spacey-sound goodness. It’s a feat that MIM manages to simultaneously evoke feelings of being lost in a dark forest and a cyberpunk wasteland within this interlude. The next track ‘Exequy’ goes back in a maximalist direction. The composition reminds of 70s British heavy metal. There’s a lot of chunky jagged riffs that essentially acts as a stage for huge atmospheric moods. The trudging bass and the way the song peters out into a funeral march is wonderfully arranged as well, lending weight to the song title (Exequy, n. funeral rites) My favourite part of this EP is ‘Conglomerate’. The arrangement and production on this short piece of music are incredible. The way the song builds upon itself from the introductory percussion to the ongoing guitar layers is MIM at their songwriting best. It feels demented and not right in the head, all in the best way. Its only flaw is that it doesn’t last as long as it should. The last track in Runut dalam Jeda is the one that makes me the most uncertain. ‘Kodokushi’ starts off strong: the heavy breathing perfectly punctuates the ending of ‘Conglomerate’ and heralds a great beginning. ('Kodokushi' is a Japanese term meaning 'lonely death. attributed largely to the 1980s when many lonely salarymen or elderly suffered from economic troubles & depression). The ominous sawing sounds in the background that I assume is a sliding effect from the guitar or some kind of warped synth sample is incredible. The way the song is paced makes it sound like a prog metal epic. It beckons images of earthquake footsteps from an apocalyptic mecha monster out to destroy the world. One of the major problems I have with ‘Kodokushi’ is the use of the crying clip at the end. It feels very inauthentic and put-on. Like kicking a dead horse, or over-explaining an emotion. The crying unnecessarily exaggerates something that was already done by the music. This is made worse by the music video that was released by the single. It’s a personal thing, maybe, but listening to the cry as I watch footage of WW2 atrocities feels like I’m being patronised. Like I’m told what to feel. Like those laugh tracks in sitcoms. It nullifies the extent of the impact I could have received. Maybe the problem is not even in the clip itself, but the way it was mixed or its lengthy duration. I could come up with more comparisons for this, but I’ll end it with the annoyance I feel when a movie has narration and it’s telling me exactly what’s happening on the screen, even though I can obviously see it. Like of course, Martha is crying Mr. Narrator, I wasn’t under the presumption that she was leaking through her eyes.
‘Kodokushi’ is a mixed bag denouement to an overall punchy EP. The screams at the end of the track by Gheff (from Glistening Redchair) is a more effective artistic choice for the song even though it lasted for less than a minute.
(One very petty note, the music video that Kodokushi came with lowered my expectations a bit for the EP. My opinion was unfairly affected by the music video and the cringe-worthy disclaimer that came with it, which reads like a Rick and Morty copypasta (This music video requires a high level of understanding lol). I say unfairly because at the end of the day I admire that they grounded the track to a concept like war and ended up creating a pretty solid score (sans the scream) to one of mankind’s worst atrocities. They probably didn’t mean to be cringe-worthy or patronising. Might be a copywriting oversight. Honestly, I feel like it would work way better with just a disclaimer along the lines of “Viewers discretion advised: Some images in this video might offend or disturb. Contains mild depictions of deaths, war and violence”)
Runut Dalam Jeda’s heart is in the right place. There’s a lot to be said about the potential and the ambition in this EP. If you’re a fan of post-rock, Runut Dalam Jeda straddles the line between forgivingly cushy and surprisingly refreshing. Comparatively, MIM fumbles in the bigger songs but does exceptionally well in short bursts. The alternating pace of the tracklist allows room for introspection and inward-looking headbangs (you know what I mean, the ones you do when you don’t want to get caught cause your dad is in front of you and he secretly thinks you’re a Satanist based on your stickers of metal bands). Sonically as a post-rock band, Runut Dalam Jeda knows what to keep in their arsenal, even if they occasionally use it at the wrong times.
3.5 / 5
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- CREDITS: Instrumentation; Abby, Am, Has, Kamil (except for piano; Ali Moghavvemi & Nawizik) Cries on Track 6; Mawar Roseka Scream on Track 6; Gheff Abd Ghafar from Glistening Redchair Recorded by; Hadeef Azlan (drums), Kamil (bass, synth, guitars), Ali & Nawi (piano), & Gheff (scream) Mixing and Mastering; Hadeef Azlan Illustrations; Huzaifah Mahmud & In Assembly
“Runut Dalam Jeda” by Ell All songs arranged, performed, composed and produced by MIM
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