Hear The Track HereI bet there are a few very surprised regulars reading this review thinking that it can't possibly be the SAME Shorthand Phonetics, but worry not, it is indeed. Shorthand Phonetics, when I first met them way back in 2004, were a five piece band from Jakarta, Indonesia who specialised in the most garage band sound they could get - much to this reviewers consternation because - when you got through all the noise - they were actually fairly decent. Ababil Ashari was the main mover and shaker and he still is - and btw the only surviving member of the band. Not that the others died mind, just moved away, doing other things. In fact the last few reviews I have done of this outfit it has all been Ababil, songwriting, recording and performing. Now over the years I have become accustomed to the way Shorthand Phonetics tracks sound and I am aware that some people just don't 'get' it at all. That's OK, not everyone will, as Ababil has no doubt found out.
Ababil is the master of song titles, as you are about to find out. Musically, SP have always veered towards the raucous, and usually to the good, so I expected that from note one, track one and I noticed a marked difference in tone and style. First off, ...Cause Asian Vampires Are The Most Vicious Of All Vampires is a punchy sucker, slamming out of the gate at a thousand knots a second and lo...you can actually hear everything! I say this with some surprise because it was always the one thing that dogged all of the earlier tracks. OK, it isn't exactly studio quality but its light years away from the original sound. Because of that audio clarity - and despite this being an instrumental - it makes me appreciate just how far Ababil has come as a musician. It also makes me take mental note that I should maybe pass this on to Patrick Lew, who I think would find this very interesting. All Too Platonic 2:Electric Boogaloo may ring some bells amongst veteran SP fans because it was also the title of probably the original band's most well known track. 'A serious band in the making' is what I wrote when I reviewed All Too Platonic (April 2005) and 'Loud, proud and energetic' is how I described that track. Unfortunately the clarity and professionalism of the first track is lost but the songs comes though the lo-fi very well - provided you like punky pop.
Shorthand Phonetics musical playground has always veered between straightforward pop and a spiky, punk extremely verbal approach. One thing you could never accuse Ababil of is lack of verbals. As much as his song titles are problematic (this CD features a track called 'You can regret the past and you can be depressed about the present; But you don't know anything about the future and fuck! (...)...That's exciting'), his songs are thickets of prose set to slabs of sound. Doesn't sound like much when stated baldly like that but Shorthand Phonetics have always punched above their weight right from the start, especially in catchy phrases. As I say though, definitely not for sound purists, this 10 track project will only serve to give your woofers and tweeters a good kicking, and definitely not for those who like their music to work in time honoured ways. So here we are, some six years later and on album number five (this one) so where do Shorthand Phonetics stand in the modern world? Best thing I have heard from them so far, is what I say. All that time is finally paying off. Please Ababil, update your Soundclick site so they can hear this!
MUST HAVE for fans, Highly Recommended fresh (if lo fi) punky pop for others.