Java: Kecapi Suling is a collection featuring examples of a popular Javanese musical style played by several kecapis (a type of box zither) accompanied by a suling, a bamboo flute. To Western ears, there is a surface similarity to the more familiar music of Bali, but Javanese music tends to be calmer, even languorous, with relaxed tempi inquisitive but serene flute work. Several varieties of kecapi are used, generally functioning both as the rhythmic base and the tonal center of the pieces, allowing the suling to float and pirouette above. Their sound ranges from what one might expect from a plucked, zither-like instrument to bell tones more readily associated with Balinese gamelan; their effect over time becomes hypnotic, although to Western ears this may be equivalent to repetitive. The suling playing is really wondrous, seemingly unfettered by any musical system, and sounding as natural and unforced as a bird's song. No individual performers are listed on the disc (nor are composing credits given, leading one to assume the songs are traditional in nature) but the Bale Seni Megasari ensemble plays seamlessly as a whole. Listeners already familiar with the better-known gamelan music of Bali will surely enjoy this sultry cousin.
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AllMusic Review by Brian Olewnick