Strawberry Rain Rec. Aka : Hard Beat -LP/CD-(ID,1971-1977,comp.2011)*****
I once heard the first album of Aka with at least one or two really powerful tracks, and for the rest by the circumstances obliging public teasers, apparently in the Malay pop style. Jason Connoy also was amazed by these kind of powerful tracks and he took some effort in tracing all AKA albums down in mint condition to make a compilation of such higher quality tracks, an opportunity the band was never be able to take, and what love for music and quality in the end we get here with this one. Jason already proved the existence to the world of great Indonesian music through the compilation he did for Now Again records. After having discovered more himself, he decided to start his own label, and this is the second release.
Aka came from Surabaya, East Java. The band also featured ex Ariesta Birawa Band lead guitarist Soenata Tandjung. They often covered bands like Steppenwolf, Grand Funk Railroad, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Cream and Three Dog Night performing more often at West Point Garden Bar/Restaurant in Singapore, which set their reputation. In 4 years they released six albums. The track “Crazy Joe” was number 1 in Australia for a few weeks. Most songs were in English, a few in Melayu (Malay language). Songwriter Andalas Datoe Oloan ‘Ucok’ Harahap had an English literature degree from Surabaya’s Institute for Higher Education. His lyrics involved political consciousness, were also mind openers. He appeared on stage naked, doing acts with coffins and so on, was a kind of character who seemed to have idealised James Brown as well, having more love affairs than a man can bear. The band never became too popular, perhaps due to the contradictory contrasts on the albums or due to the language barriers, the members could survive better in the side projects of SAS and Duo Kribo. In 1997 they appeared again with a new record featuring one God Bless members but also this caught no attention.
The music sounds very much “black” music, the songs are powerful with hard/heavy rock foundations, the arrangements are really thoughtful and intelligent adding harmonies of electric fuzz guitars, organ dialogues and lots of surprising changes within one song, making a very progressive minded result with the emphasis on the power in the expressions. Even when the elements of funk appear, like on track 7,9 and 10 this doesn’t last long or for a whole track, but is only used as a theme element, returning in song parts to the intelligent heavy rock. The lead singer shows personality. When being in the James Brown identification we have a couple of highly original moments too. On “Shake Me” for instance the singer asks if the other members like drugs on which they say no, but on the question if they like sex they all agree on that before shaking this into a musical groove, a humoristic note with a serious and great result, a track which we found already on the Now Again compilation. Some tracks between 7 and 10 have also use of some analogue synthesizer, which is played as attractive just like an emotionally performed electric fuzz guitar, with great and original effect to the music. The singer not only is able to scream and funk and push its way up like James Brown, on the funkier moments, but there is a much wider range of expressions in his voice too, a vocal range as well. Each track is an absolute winner, so of course this compilation also is. A must-have of heavy rock with a progressive edge.