International Novelty Gamelan
USA MODERN RADIO RECORDS LABEL MRRL 060 10” (2015)
Packaged like a lost 78 from the early 20th century Java; one that might have earned page space in Robert Millis’ sumptuous vinylist’s coffee table fixture Victrola Favourites, and not unlike an old Sun City Girls 10” is this capable amateur’s effort from the five artists/musicians who make up International Novelty Gamelan. Their work is a slightly ramshackle showcase of the gamelan’s sociability in varied settings and while most members have studied the instrument formally, none would claim steepage in its culture nor would they wish to, instead making a virtue of the resultant Novelties when rampant inspiration collides with the potential of a new medium, as they set out to ‘broaden the range of what gamelan is thought to be’. Purists might sniff ‘dilettante’, but the group has considered its output with care and in the interlocking lines of the early minutes establishes a convincing, mechanical rigour; a conceit pursued so vigorously that the typewriter-like tapping of the titular ‘Adding Machine’ is audible over the gamelan’s gentle, metallic pulse. The group maintains this this premise of gamelan-as-canvas throughout, importing non- (or vaguely) traditional accompaniments such as hand drums, hand claps and scratchy violin to embolden and diversify the mood and syllabic nuance of these five pieces, which culminate rather sharply in a 10-minute shrieking howl of Asian puppet theatre, ‘MonoGatari’, ensuring listeners ringside seats to an affable and exploratory kitchen sink drama.