T33.2V – Various Artists “Islands in-between”

Touch # T33.2V
Edition of 500 vinyl and download only
A new series of vinyl and download only releases, “from the archives…”. Islands Inbetween was originally released on cassette in 1983 [Touch # T33.2]. Three tracks, by John Keliehor & Orlando Kimber, have been removed from this edition for copyright reasons. The second in this series, “Drumming for Creation” [Touch # T33.3V] will be released in the spring of 2013.

Track list:

Side One 20’31”
Day and Night
Gending Gending
Degung Instrumental
Cremation Gamelan
Dag combination dance
Ramayana ll

Side Two 17’05”
Temple Gamelan
Frog Sound
Degung instrumental no. 2


Indonesians often use the name ‘Nusantara’, meaning ‘the islands in-between’, when referring to the archipelago that forms their Republic. This cassette covers only some of the cultural activity on Java and Bali, the best known islands out of the 13,700 counted by statisticians, so it is not intended to be in any way definitive. The selections are more like musical postcards of two cultures balanced between tradition and tourism.
legend: meridian 105º – 115º east

Side one:

There is no specific translation for ‘Gending Gending’. The term generally means ‘orchestra’ or ‘gamelan composition’. The Javanese word for hammer is ‘gamel’, and the music is said to encourage the growth of plants. ‘Suling’ – the end blown flute. ‘Degung instrumental’ – from the Sudabese region of West Java to the speakers of tourists cafes. ‘Genggong’ – the first Balinese instrument, a mouth harp made from the palm and played by Igusti Ngurah Togog at his homestay in Peliatan, Bali. ‘Cremation Gamelan’ – a portable ensemble plays while the cremation tower is raised from the death pavilion. Before travelling a mile along the Peliatan road to the Temple of the Dead, the tower is spun around on its bearer’s shoulders to confuse the soul, preventing its return home to trouble the living. The overture played as the tower is set alight (with a magnifying glass – matches are thought to be unclean), is recorded on ‘Touch Travel’. Dag combination dance – in Bali, individual dances are sometimes merged into modern adaptations, not only as a result of tourism – the gamelan elders think popularisation is the best way to attract young people to dance, though dividing lines are difficult to draw. ‘Dag’ is a combination of ‘Kecak’ and ‘Kebyar’, performed from the squatting position in a pantomime style very popular with children. Attention is focused on the facial expressions of the dancers which interpret man’s ever-changing moods. ‘King Rama’ – the story of the ‘Kecak’ (monkey) dance is taken from the Hindu Ramayana epic and portrays Rama’a search for his wife, Sita, who has been abducted to the monkey forest. Rama is an incarnation of Vishnu, The Creator, and serves as an ideal for the Hindu man. ‘Ramayana ll’ – the opening sequence of the gamelan acvcompaniment to the 4 part ballet held on the full moon-lit nights of June, July and August at Prambanan temple complex. The largest central temple is dedictade to Shiva, the destroyer. The voices that follow were recorded on a train at Bandung station at 3am, en route to Yogjakarta. Local sellers board trains whatever the hour, and every carriage becomes an indoor market.

Side two:

‘Watermark’ – nightfall by a bridge near the Monkey Forest, Ubud. ‘One Language’ – there are c. 300 different languages and dialects in Indonesia. After independence in 1945, Bahasa Indonesian became the universally accepted language, though its use had already been encouraged by Nationalists as a political tool against the Dutch colonisers, and sanctioned by Japanese invaders who wished to spread propaganda to the villagers. ‘Temple Gamelan’ – musicians play while women bring ornately prepared offerings to the temple shrines on auspicious days of the Hindu calendar. Spirits and demons cannot live without food and drink, so the women fan the essence towards the divine recipient before offerings are placed on the ground to waiting dogs. Smaller offerings made daily, are left at strategic points around the house and alongside the ricefields. ‘Frog Sound’ – the sound comes from the reed mouthpiece of the genggong harp. Played by Togog and his son. ‘Ducks’ – every morning young boys and old men direct the family ducks out of their pens and along narrow paths into ricefields that are wet enough to paddle in. ‘Tenun’ – the Balinese weaving dance depicting women working at this traditional craft. ‘Anjung’ – the name given to the hordes of semi-wild dogs that roam Bali’s villages, barking instinctively at any approaching white man. ‘Garuda’ – Indonesia’s national symbol is the Garuda bird. Vishnu’s chosen vehicle and thus the king of flight associated with creative energy. Garuda is a dominant motif in Indonesian art, the name of the national airline and the seal of the official state coat of arms, beneath which appears the words ‘Bhinneka Tunggal Ika’ – literally ‘many are there but there is only one’.


The Wire (UK):

Since 1984, when these field recordings from Bali and Java were initially issued on a limited edition cassette, documentation of that region’s music has been plentiful. But Islands In-Between, edited with skill and subtlety by Jon Wozencroft and Mike Harding, has a value of its own. It lays no claim to being more than a visitor’s record, a montage of “musical postcards of two cultures balanced between tradition and tourism”. Yet these auditory snapshops from Indonesia communicate the real excitement of chance encounters and serendipitous discovery. Environmental sounds – a creaking door, ducks squawking as they waddle to a rice field, a speeding motorbike, cooing doves and voices bartering on a train – and interspersed with familiar gamelan sonorities. This music is clearly embedded in daily life, even as that life adapts to the presence of tourists. Children chatter while watching traditional dance; a portable gamelan accompanies the raising of a cremation tower; temple musicians play as offerings are brought to nourish spirits and placate demons; a dog wails along mournfully as a pair of genddong jaw-harps imitate the hocketing of frogs. And above and beyond that sustained level of interest, the flute-led gamelan degung performances midway through the second side is a stunningly lovely piece of music. [Julian Cowley]

Boomkat (UK):

Invaluable vinyl edition of Touch 33, a release originally issued on cassette in 1984. One of the UK’s longest-running independents, these days Touch is associated with a close coterie of preeminent artists including Fennesz, Philip Jeck and Chris Watson, but in its early days its outlook was more catholic and rangy, if no less editorially exacting. It was particularly ahead of its time in terms of the attention it gave to ethnic musics and sounds from around the world: Islands In-Between zones in on the island archipelago of Java and Bali, presenting “musical postcards of two cultures balanced between tradition and tourism”. The compilation takes in field recordings of gamelan, Balinese genggong mouth harp, Dag dance music, and other festive and ritual sounds. Edited by Touch co-founders Jon Wozencroft and Mike Harding, it remains a startling and enlightening instance of what they call “tape travel”.

Norman Records (UK):

Strange record this, taken from an obscure 28-year-old cassette dating back to Touch’s embryonic days as a field recordings tape label and now mastered lovingly onto vinyl. These recordings were made on the Indonesian islands of Java and Bali and claim to represent merely a small portion of the local musical culture in the form of traditional folk, street sounds and tribal/percussive wonderment. Yes, this is a very evocative record indeed and I’m totally loving the warm, vibrant pitter-patter‘n’clatter, jaunty reed instruments and chanting that totally captures the carnival spirit and joyful mania of these islands most succinctly. Totally lush sounds to transport you to another time and place.

Forced Exposure (USA):

Reissue of a cassette originally released in 1984. I bought a copy when it came out (of course) and listened to it often despite the extremely low volume the cassette was recorded at. So, for me anyway, this reissue is a huge bonus as the sound is much better than the original. All kinds of music from Bali and Java. There is some gamelan, and a lot of other music and field recordings. Snapshots optimistically compiled at a time when it seemed that anything was possible. Not really a document of anything but itself. Great to play during a late night thunderstorm. With enough bourbon/etc, you’ll feel just like you are in Apocalypse Now!.

Sound and Music (Sweden):

Intressant att studera Touch kassettutgivning under 80-talet. Skivbolaget var från början ett kassettfanzine innan det successivt blev mer och mer vanlig skivutgivning. Vad kanske inte så många känner till är att de i begynnelsen släppte en hel del musik från olika hörn av världen, samtidigt som det fokuserades på de brittiska och europeiska industri/experiment-scenerna. Islands Inbetween är en sådan kassett, ursprungligen släppt 1983, nu för första gången på vinyl (500 exemplar), och så kan man köpa den direkt in i datorn.

Inspelningarna på Islands Inbetween befinner sig mittemellan de klassiska skivorna med musik från Indonesien som bland annat Jacques Brunet och David Lewiston spelade in under 60-70-80-talen och gav ut på Nonesuch Explorer, Ocora och Bärenreiter/Philips (Unesco-skivorna) och Sublime Frequencies tidiga, anarkistiska utgåvor, som Radio Java och Radio Sumatra där allting blandas, från pop till folkmusik, radiosnack, gatusamtal.
Vi befinner oss på Java och Bali, idéen med kassetten/skivan är att det ska fungera som ljudvykort från ett land med oändligt många kulturer. Fåglar och insekter, miljöljud, blandas med olika typer av musik, gamelaninspelningarna är mycket levande och känns folkliga, delvis är det ceremoniell festmusik och pantomimmusik, läser jag mig till, där människor dansar, som en del av hinduistiska berättelser. Det hörs, folk skrattar, slagverken ökar tempot, flöjter läggs till, musiken tystnar, mikrofonerna stannar kvar, för att insupa atmosfären.

På sida två, eller spår två, på den digitala versionen, fastnar jag mest för poetiskt flöjtspel som perfekt samspelar med den intima gamelanorkestern. Här finns även ljuden av gäss och hundar, och “Frog Sound”, fascinerande musik av Igusti Ngurah Togog, från Peliatan, Bali, och hans son, båda spelar genggong, en slags mungiga, vanlig i balinesisk musik.
Fler återutgåvor från Touch kassettarkiv är på gång, näst på tur Drumming for Creation (1985), musik från bland annat Gambia, Tanzania och Niger. [PM Jönsson]

Brainwashed (USA):

Islands In-Between was the first full-length work published by the label as a cassette in 1983, capturing music and local ambience found throughout Wozencroft’s travels in Java and Bali. While apparently consisting of 15 distinct pieces, it works best as two side-long experiences that natural sit alongside each other.

As far as the music presented goes, gamelan is heavily represented throughout, from the complex, polyrhythmic “Gending Gending” and two separate “Degugn Instrumental” pieces, all of which make for dense, hypnotic works that occasionally drop to a slow, pensive pace before once again returning to the unrelenting rhythms. “Cremation Gamelan” and “Ramayana II” are barer, conveying a more reverent, ceremonial tone within them.

Interspersed throughout these pieces are a variety of field recordings taken in the area. “Watermark” is perhaps the perfect synopsis of the label, albeit one taken 30 years ago: a subtle suite of insects and frogs convey a timeless, organic sensibility before being rudely interrupted by the aggressive, modernist sound of a revving motorcycle engine. “Frog Sound” and “Ducks”, while giving away their sources in their respective titles, appear much more complex when detached from their natural habitat. At times the croaks and bird calls sounds seem to drift into what more closely resembles traditional instrumentation rather than natural phenomena.