Album Review: Dewa Budjana — Naurora

The potential downside of remote recording is that – when it’s not done well, which is often – it can robe the music of the feel of of spontaneity, the vibe that comes form musicians playing together in real time. The upside, of course, is that an artist can enlist the participation of collaborators who under normal circumstances wouldn’t be available. For Naurora, Budjana has avoided the former and made the most of the latter; the album features the superb participation of (among others of note) drummer Simon Phillips and multi-instrumentalist Gary Husband on keyboards.

The title track I full of majesty, with exciting musical twists and turns; it reaches heights of intensity that rival King Crimson, and the rhythm section plays like a prog-metal ensemble of the highest order before switching into jazz mode, and then doing that every bit as effectively.

“Swaarna Jingga” opens with wah-wah guitar before heading someplace else entirely. If Joe Satriani did fusion it might sound (a little) like this. Dew Budjana makes some of the most accessible ambitious music one is likely to hear, and this track is an exemplar of his balancing those often mutually exclusive characteristics.

Budjana is the rare progressive guitarist who has full command of an accessible nature. His compositions are both ambitious in scope and highly melodic in execution. “Kmalasana” sounds not wholly unlike an instrumental Pink Floyd number, with Budjana’s guitar soaring over a mid-tempo base full of lush keyboard textures and a rock-solid yet expressive rhythm section.

“Sabana Shanti” is the most conventional tune on Naurora, a kind of smooth jazz with none of the blandness that label connotes. The instrumentalists seem to circle around each other in playful collaboration.

The first minute or so of the atmospheric “Blue Mansion” doesn’t sound much like any Western artists I can think of. To belabor an overused adjective, it’s exotic. Full of mystery, the tune draws the listener in; it’s not quite a soundtrack in search of a movie, because it doesn’t need one. Once the tune opens up, it’s vaguely reminiscent of ‘70s fusion a la Mahavishnu Orchestra, but it ventures beyond that as well, into something heady and alluring.

With Naurora, Dewa Budjana reminds listeners yet again that he’s an artist of consistent quality and inventiveness.

Nota Bene: for reasons unknown, if one brings the album up on Spotify, they’re presented with a track listing that places each of the five tracks in a different sequence.