The South of the East is the debut album from Tenggara Trio, comprising of improvisors from Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Like previous Lao Ban Records releases it has Yong Yandsen gargling, screeching, skronking and more on the tenor saxophone, but unlike previous releases, "The South of the East" is the most rocking (read: loud, aggressive, driving) release from Lao Ban Records hitherto. The other two members, Ikbal S. Lubys and Dharma both play electric guitar (with efx and objects), but rarely sound like what one would expect of the instrument, more often sounding like percussion. Ikbal comes across like a bamboo assault while Dharma a caveman lost in a derelict industrial wasteland. Together they weave an intricate texture of jagged percussiveness for Yandsen to glide, knock and spit over.
These are 6 tracks of free improvisation with each christened in a different language from Southeast Asia but meaning the same thing: Southeast. Hence, the album title and also trio name ("Tenggara" means Southeast in Malay and Bahasa Indonesia), giving us directions where all this is coming from but not where it could lead to.
“At times when I think about directions, geographical or otherwise, I wonder to whose reference I should take. Or should I even have a reference? How we had traditionally been defined to be the South, East or Southeast, will always be of a reference to a particular world order that’s been set by a moribund ideology. But what if we started taking a position eviscerated of direction — to a fracture where every second is a middle moment? That’s when we can begin appreciating and listening to something that is bereft of reference and colour. Hence, I am beginning to think that the music of Tenggara Trio is like that experience. Perhaps I am lucky enough to have probably seen them play live the most number of times. And each encounter left me with a strange liberating feeling – that feeling of being lost — and then constantly finding my way around through the coalescing yet distinct layers of rhythm, atonality, familiarity and obscurity, to find myself, once again, lost with no further need for bearings.
Yuen Chee Wai — Singapore, July 2018