MonoloQue Hikayat Halimunan Abad Ke-21: Jejak Tanah

I can’t remember when was the last time I reviewed an album. But late last night, someone special sent me a message asking me what do I think about MonoloQue’s debut album. Despite badly wanting to give her an answer, I was lost of words. So, yeah, for the first time in so many years, I find myself writing an album review. Not as good as I used to do, but I hope it answer the special person’s question. So here goes…


Hikayat Halimunan Abad Ke-21: Jejak Tanah

(Penerbitan Pancasona)

HOW do you exorcise the ghost of your past, especially when the ghost was a band known as Butterfingers.

It was the biggest band in the history of Malaysian modern music; the band who influenced and/or inspired a long line of followers, detractors; the band who managed to (con)vince their figures-oriented record label to release a landmark album that was also a commercial shotgun suicide (Selamat Tinggal Dunia); the band who gave the finger (Malayneum) to their own success (Transcendence)?

You drop and album and call it Hikayat Halimunan Abad Ke-21: Jejak Tanah.

Seriously, there was a point where naysayers have written off MonoloQue off as a self-indulgent outlet for a former songwriter, guitarist of a great band.

The unofficially released “album” was a post-guitar Radiohead carbon copy that had no immediate mass appeal urgency. Songs like ‘Jika Aku Seorang Robot’ and ‘Langgar Lari’ was nothing like Butterfingers nor something one would expect from an expert of the art of guitar lovemaking.

Loque has lost it, it seems.

Well, dear detractors, you jumped the gun too soon.

First, MonoloQue then was Loque alone.

Second, what many failed to see then was, the fuck-you-guitar-I’m-going-electronic Monoloque was actually a detoxifying process.

Think about it, after Kembali, the closest resemblance of a truly Malay rock album, the last thing anyone of Loque’s caliber would want to do is to pick up where it left for future journeys.

He didn’t ditch it totally, but he took the essence, cut it into small pieces, and he slowly reconstructs it. While that is taking place, the creative juices needs to keep flowing, hence the fuck-you-guitar-I’m-going-electronic outputs.

The first block of this relearning process came in the form of Pelita a Malay pop-rock anthem sung by a supergroup he dubbed as A.P.I.

Some may see ‘Pelita’ as the template for Hikayat Halimunan Abad Ke-21: Jejak Tanah, but the fact of the matter was, the song, was more of a “pengejek” if not a litmus test especially in terms of relevance in Malaysian modern music landscape.

The actual template for Hikayat Halimunan Abad Ke-21: Jejak Tanah was ‘Kekanda Adinda’, an infectious pop tune that could fit perfectly into any of your favourite flick from the golden era of Malay cinema. It was a heavily westernised pop song that was built from the essence of the Malay Archipelago, especially its melody and chord progressions.

Kekanda Adinda’ also laid the foundation for the Monoloque, the band – (drummer Loko, bassist Dax, guitarist Ijoo, multi-instrumentalist Apex and Loque himself)

If that song was the template, Tiada Kata Scantik Bahasa the late Tan Sri P Ramlee’s song recorded for P Ramlee: Satu Indiepretasi compilation was an arrival, not commercially, but in creativity and perfection of the art of madness.

The question then was: Can something that is sinfully commercial (Kekanda Adinda) and sinfully artistic (Tiada Kata Scantik Bahasa) meet halfway and work as an album?

Based on Hikayat Halimunan Abad Ke-21: Jejak Tanah, both didn’t only meet halfway, but also marches beyond, in tandem, hand-in-hand, and with a vengeance.

Album opener ‘Kupu-Kupu Malam (Bunyikan Semboyan)’ despite its lyrical context was celebratory in mood. Packed with the best of Loque’s edgier rock musical adventure (with and post-Butterfingers), the song symbolizes a musical arrival. A perfect song to start something, to start my day, if you ask me.

I believe I have elaborated enough about the second track ‘Kekanda Dinda’, so I’ll skip that and go straight to the third track, ‘Cinta’.

Despite being one of crowd favourites, the song didn’t do much to me, especially when the next track ‘Gurindam Hutan Batu’ was a prime cut of this music I would from now on describe as simply MonoloQue – unashamedly westernized yet essentially ‘Melayu

The momentum continues with the next two tracks, ‘Tiada Kata Scantik Bahasa’ and ‘Hapuskan Air @ Matamu’ and just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, came ‘Batu Belah Batu Konkrit (Bonda)’.

Present was Monoloque circa the fuck-you-guitar and replacing the electronics was something that many have attempt but failed – soul.

The song pierced through the heart as soon as you hear guest singer, Azlina Aziz sings her first verse: “Wahai anakanda ku sayang, Kemana hilang budaya, Di culik piring terbang, Atau di telan buaya.”

It tells a story of a mother’s heartbreak, which was followed by a son’s plea for forgiveness and all was presented at the most minimal musically. The song was an anti-thesis of what you probably known or remembers MonoloQue musically for, but clearly stamped with MonoloQue’s blueprint.

It was a perfect closer for the chapter of the album. As a matter of fact, it’s so powerful; it relegated the album actual closer ‘Penghormatan Terakhir’ to a hidden track status.

Jejak Tanah is not the perfect album you probably expect from MonoloQue, but as a blueprint, it’s undoubtedly flawless.

It is after all the first chapter of the Hikayat Halimunan Abad Ke-21 trilogy, and for starters, I can’t wait to hear how the story unfolds.

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