Some tapes are stranger than others, and some are even stranger than that. The cassette EP Heal belongs to the latter category, of this there can be little doubt. Sarana is something as unique as an all-female experimental (very experimental) music act from Indonesia, Samarinda to be exact, and apart from this unusual pedigree they bring an extremely minimal take on ambient/noise music to the table. While the band define themselves as “dark ambient”, this has very little in common with the heavy, synthesizer based drone assaults typically associated with that genre.
The tracks here are formed using rather clean spoken word, bursts of feedback, occasional manipulations of physical objects and various other quite toned down (though sometimes painful) sound. The first and longest track “Anxiety Inhaler” is about 11 minutes of girls greeting someone and/or each other in a way that initially is haphazard and sounds almost like a soundcheck, but aquires an unsettling quality over the course of the song. As eerie wails, extremely high pitched feedback squeals and a plethora of unidentifiable musique concrete the recurring statements of “Hello” become surreal, in addition to functioning as a disorganized type of chorus.
The other tracks are shorter, and rather different from each other. “Binatang” is a short burst of ambient electronics with some bass and suggestive spoken word drenched in reverb. Domikado contains toned down, almost radio static like fuzz and some obscure singing and music. “Jouska” is also vocal based, but the voices are cut, manipulated and looped in a fashion that is truly bizarre. The closing track “Kuebiko” is perhaps the most conventional piece of electronic music, but it’s still very peculiar.
Heal is a tape I will be returning to. For all its simplicity, it is fascinating in its obscure minimalism. It seems like Indonesia has a very lively noise scene at the moment, and I do hope to be able to cover more of it in the near future. After finishing the above review, I realized that this tape has been out for over a year. The label D’kolektif’s site seems to be down at the moment, but if you are unable to find a copy you can always go digital and support the gals here.