Australian sound artist and the head of Room40 label Lawrence English shared a bill with the Indonesian duo Senyawa in the early 2010s and remembers the performance of Wukir Suryadi on an industrial mutant string instrument and the vocal chants of Rully Shabara as a «promise, in sound, of the energetic force that has since come to mark them as one of the truly unique and visionary musical pairings from South East Asia».
About ten years later, during the unsteady months of mid-2021 with the Covid-19 lockdowns, English and trumpeter and sound artist Peter Knight thought to reach out to Suryadi and Shabara and commence a joint project. This project, The Prey And The Ruler, was meant to cut through the geographic isolation of those long months, as well as to create some opportunities for a community of instrument builders, friends of Senyawa, who had been significantly hit by the force of the pandemic. The remote process included a series of videos sent from Suryadi’s cellphone of plastic molds, smoke, spray paint and sound. In each short clip, instruments were conceived, tested and forged. These instruments, and the audio possibilities they suggested, are at the very heart of The Prey And The Ruler. After several more exchanges, recordings were passed back and forth, and the project now included fellow Australian double bass player and vocalist Helen Svoboda, clarinetist Aviva Endean and drummer Joe Talia.
The Prey And The Ruler suggests at first a sense of urgent and intense search, or an attempt to break away – literally – from the lockdowns’ daily routines and exorcise its forced numbness. But the album also suggests introspective textures and collective dynamics that transform the unfamiliar and at times unpredictable sonic offerings of Senyawa into enigmatic meditations on sounds with surprising psychedelic effects; sounds – real, processed and manipulated, and often as part of imagined mystic rituals and incantations- as the healing force of our universe, and as means to solidify brotherhood across and beyond geographic spaces.
Wukir Suryadi (industrial mutant instrument), Rully Shabara (v), Helen Svoboda (b, v), Peter Knight (tp, Revox B77 reel-to-reel tape machine), Joe Talia (dr), Aviva Endean (cl, harmonic fl), Lawrence English (org, elec)