The Chemical Between Us

Slowly but surely, Zat Kimia (Indonesian for Chemical Substance) has finally found the momentum needed to push their sound in the Indonesian music scene, and especially in Bali. For the first time since they were formed through the hands of Ian Stevenson and Mark Liepmann as a duo seven years ago. Ian is the singer and the guitarist, while Mark is a German – Bogor offspring drummer from West Java who decided to quit from the band a long time ago. That was the embryo, and it wasn’t until many years later that Ian executed some of his old raw material with Mark, then continuing Zat Kimia as his stalled personal ambition.
Ian remembers those early years with a touch of desperation. He said, “I had a serious health problem, when I couldn’t do anything, just take a rest. And I’m thinking the only medicine for my illness is to keep playing and create music.” He felt that time was chasing him, and one of his biggest regrets in this life would be to meet death before he can finish something he already started. There he found his strength in life; in this case Zat Kimia, and any doubts were defeated.
Afterwards he recruited the rest of his collaborators to complete the band. Recording some songs for Candu Baru (New Addiction), Zat Kimia’s debut album was released in the middle of 2017 year via Trill/Cult Records, a local Bali record label who’ve been profesionally polished by Natha Raharja. Ian and also bassist-synth player Edi Pande, lead guitarist Bimo Haryputra and as well as drummer Norbertus Rizki pan out good quality modern alt-rock tracks which are heavily influenced by 90’s popular idols, from Radiohead to Stone Temple Pilots and also all the various MTV Alternative Nation compilation’s artist.
“Feromon” is one of them; a mid-tempo rock composition that became the top-seeded track for Candu Baru; A Radiohead Kid A-like synth intro and the singer’s introverted soul about poetical sexual urge. Zat Kimia has their own character in this domestic scene. Their music is not earmarked for those inclined toward misanthropic and reckless grunge behaviour, but instead is somewhat sensitive – a kind of tranquility as if you are brooding yourself by staring at the sky in from frenetic Bali island, like the song “Dalam Diam” (In Silence) an ode to the great feast day of Nyepi. “I feel so very small as a human when the hustle and bustle of life in Bali stops, just only for one day,” said Ian who wrote that song and almost every lyric on the album.
But that doesn’t mean they can’t play hard. “Candu Baru” (New Addiction) is a full distortion anxiety plot about worshiping the internet galaxy that receives an insulting word ‘Sialan!’ (Dammit) from Ian. There’s also “Ennui” the only English song in the album that we can say is pretty antagonistic for a band who were born from some disquiet melancholic feelings. Whilst “Frekuensi” (Frequency) is a mandatory song for every Zat Kimia live performance if they don’t want to be trapped as a mushy rock band, the arrangement shows virility and a light complexity in a modern vernacular that keeps them from sounding very pop.
As for the rest, we could say another way we can perceive the album Candu Baru is a contemplation process in which, if we can embrace it deeper, it will bring the listeners to the front of their own self, as if facing a mirror. Asking again what is the meaning of life with all the voids along the trip. “It feels like talking with my own self,” Ian explained about the sensation of his songs; “Euforia Ku Hampa” (My Void Euphoria), “Reaktan” (Reactant), “Waktu dan Aku” (Time and Me) and also “Aku” (Me) which has a most powerful serene vibration as a closing song for the album.
In the end Zat Kimia would only move with the senses of the universe. They just want to hear and feel something they only want to hear and feel. If music is considered to be an instrument for the redemption of the soul, then bless all the chemical reactions that are attached and reactive to each other: Candu Baru, or you can call it New Addiction. After all this, the curiousty builds as to how it would be to attend a yoga session accompanied by Zat Kimia’s songs. Enlightening perhaps.
By Rio Tantomo. Photo by Teddy Drew


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