Shorthand Phonetics – Music and Film

Most rock bands are content to live up to a certain set of expectations. This often follows a well-worn pattern: the first album is packed full of punchy material designed to gain maximum attention. By the second album, the emphasis might be on taking things down a gear, with many outfits displaying tendencies of getting introspective and moody. Indonesian band Shorthand Phonetics don't follow any of those rules. They simply focus on producing great, original rock music, whether that's for release through the usual channels, or as the atmospheric backdrop to a film.rock bands
Although Shorthand Phonetics are most known for their lo-fi indie guitar sound, they are no strangers to mainstream success. In fact, their film score album 'Score No. 1 (Dream Chase) in A major, Op. 17 for Three Electric Guitars, One Bass Guitar and One Drum Kit', made the number one spot in the 'Top Indonesian Albums of 09', produced by the influential Jakarta Globe newspaper. Never a band to scrimp on the somewhat poetic (indeed outlandish) album titles, this was followed two years later with 'Cantata No. 6 (Assistants of Assistants) in Varying Keys, Op. 25 for Three Electric Guitars, One Bass Guitar, One Drum Kit, One Tenor and Additional Voices Where Appropriate.
In fact, these highly literal descriptions of their album contents is one of Shorthand Phonetics' most instantly recognisable attributes. It conveys a quirky mix of serious intent coupled with a zany sense of humour. But when it comes to actually delivering the goods, the Bandung group is focussed on creating original music that will live on in their listeners' memories (long after most other indie bands have been superseded by the latest hyped-up indie bands).
The defining feature of Shorthand Phonetics is their instantly recognisable guitar sound – or should that be 'three guitars' sound? These are often played in a choppy or 'staccato' style that allows the guitar line to dictate a certain amount of rhythm for any song. This is frequently counterbalanced with a more gentle but insistent strumming, allowing layers of melody to be injected into the piece. As for the rhythm section, very often anything goes, with madcap drumming competing with nihilistic bass lines.
On top of all this, the vocal performances are often dead-pan, or deliberately understated. Shorthand Phonetics are not known for huge, anthemic choruses sung in cod-operatic style. Instead they paint little vignettes that describe the nuances and irritations of everyday life. The equipment used captures this lo-fi technique to perfection, with webcam microphones or a laptop taking the place of the arsenal of marshall stacks that have been the rock band staple for decades.
The band itself was formery a five-piece, consisting of bassist Alfonsus Tanoto, guitarists Kevin Yapsir and Daniel Sastro, drummer Alvin Lasmana and guitarist, vocalist and programmer Ababi Ashari. Established in 2003 or 2004 (the exact date has been open to debate for a while), they were eventually signed to Yes No Wave Music in 2007. Their debut album was another ditty that didn't exactly roll off the tongue – Fanfiction: From the Seriously Absurd to the Absurdly Serious.
Following the album's release, the bulk of the Shorthand Phonetics departed to pursue academic careers, leaving driving force Ababail Ashari to continue writing material under the band's name.
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