The music called "post-rock" is basically a less operatic version of progressive rock. Both add diverse timbres and textures to rock melodies and rhythms, but whereas prog-rock favors jazz and European classical music (especially the baroque and romantic varieties), post-rock usually drifts toward non-Western currents. Among the most impressive examples of this tendency is Macha, an Athens, Ga., quartet that takes its inspiration from Indonesia. On its second album, "See It Another Way" (Jetset), the band further refines its shimmering style.
The band's founder, Joshua McKay, traveled extensively in Indonesia in 1993, and later returned with band mate Kai Riedl. They immersed themselves in the archipelago's prodigious musics, returning with recordings as well as folk instruments such as the Javanese zither, whose strings are sometimes made from motorcycle brake cables. Mingling these finds with American instruments--including a toy organ once marketed as "The Fun Machine"--Macha constructs both dreamy, groove-oriented instrumentals ("Between Stranded Sonars") and minor-key art-rock songs ("Salty").
Although the band sometimes replaces the Western 12-tone scale with Asian five- or seven-tone counterparts, the results aren't merely exotic. Rock and much Indonesian music have a steady pulse, which means that the two meet on common ground in such songs as "The Nipplegong." While ephemeral tracks such as "Come Close" recall Brian Eno's early ambient experiments, "Submarine Lover" adds violin and cello that sound plaintively Eastern European.
Whatever the ingredients, Macha's music is consistently sumptuous and complex. But what's most impressive about the group's fusion is its naturalness. Unlike so much Western music that draws on Eastern motifs, "See It Another Way" never treats its Asian elements as mere decoration. Indeed, without Indonesian music, Macha would be impossible.
(To hear a free Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8174.)
'Music of Indonesia' With some copies of its previous, self-titled album, Macha included a bonus disc of field recordings McKay made in Indonesia. Smithsonian Folkways has done considerably more documenting of the country's music, resulting in a 20-disc series, "Music of Indonesia." The last three discs in the series were recently released: "Sulawesi: Festivals, Funerals, and Work," "Music of Maluku: Halmahera, Buru, Kei" and "Indonesian Guitars."
Indonesian music has much kinship with other indigenous Pacific and Asian styles, but it also has been influenced by missionaries, traders and conquerors from India, the Middle East and Europe. Best known are the gamelan (tuned percussion) orchestras of Bali and Java, and comparable troupes can be heard on both the Maluku and the Sulawesi discs. Yet these three albums also include a cappella singing, drum-and-vocal music that suggests Native American chants, and keening guitar-accompanied songs that seem to owe something to Portugal. There's enough material here to inspire a dozen Machas--and there are 17 more albums in the series.
(To hear a free Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8175.)