Noisaurus Records may not have a lot of years behind them, but the independent record label is quickly proving to be a creative force to be reckoned with.
Emerging out of the Yogyakarta’s underground music scene, Noisaurus is a boutique-styled indie label which focuses on old analog formats, in particular cassette tapes.
For the most part, their roster is made up of punk bands whose charms lie in their indifference of studio-quality production. But the label has also released albums by heavy metal bands and experimental folk acts.
On their second compilation record, “Some Kind of Stranger,” the label aims to bolster their image as an uncompromising hub for some of the country’s most off-kilter acts. Mostly self-produced by its individual contributors, the result is an intriguing musical journey that makes more of an impact with its aesthetic choices, than songwriting prowess. The album offers a lot of attitude and attempts at artistry that deserves some appreciation, even if its songs do not always gel into a cohesive whole.
Much of the its sound is embedded with the jagged intensity of 1980s post-punk bands. The obvious influences of iconic groups such as This Heat, Joy Division, Wire and Magazine are so audible that the whole record might as well be a compilation of their live bootleg recordings.
A dark intensity drives some of these tracks, making the album an immensely pleasurable, headphone listening experience, if only for curiosity’s sake.
Untitled Joy’s “Enza from Narita” builds itself with galloping toms before lonesome guitars step in. Similarly, Eerie’s “Open Grave” also borrows that sense of lonesome doom from Joy Division, only with more of a loud, rock pace.
The Porno’s “Last Anxiety” begins with chorus-like, electric guitars before letting its martial drums come forward. Just as Untitled Joy and Eerie, large drum sounds and consciously minimalist arrangements take center stage.
Along with Papa Onta Cult’s “Death In The Internet” and Cotswold’s opening track, “Fire,” these tunes lean heavily on a long, unforgotten genre whose progressiveness depended on the fact that no sound like it had been heard before.
By expanding on punk rock’s anachronistic sensibility and giving it an artsy edge, those bands of the past made something that was unheralded in its attitude.
And though Noisaurus’ Indie bands who try to forge those sounds on this compilation record do so in musically interesting ways, there is no denying the sense of complacency in the tracks’ concept and execution.
So it is a mild relief when songs of a different nature pop up. Luhur Lauri’s “Berdansa Di Makan Simbah” (“Dancing Upon Simbah’s Grave”) is an experimental, ambience-driven song reminiscent of early industrial acts such as Skinny Puppy and Einstürzende Neubauten. Meanwhile V.S.O.T.B.’s “Selamat Malam” (“Good Night”) does retro disco in all the right ways by sounding airy and melancholic.
“Some Kind of Stranger” holds the distinction — aside from a few tracks — as being the first post-punk compilation released by local bands. That the tracks seem to labor in style rather than capture a degree of melodic or songwriting strength is a slight drawback, but overall the compilation feels like a fresh take on a relatively uncharted scene.
To order the “Some Kind of Stranger” cassette tape, visit http://noisaurusrecs.bandcamp.com
Correction: An earlier version of this story described "Some Kind of Stranger" as the band's first compilation record. It is their second.