Stars are aligned


Akta Angkasa is one of the true visionary acts attempting to take local music to the next level.

The band’s name literally translates to “Space Act”. Not that our country is privy to such a legislative act yet but Klang Valley-based outfit Akta Angkasa, now a highly recognisable name in fringe music circles, isn’t about to be limited by the confines of general acceptability.

The band first burst on to the scene in late 2005 with boundary-breaking musicianship in mind. Back then, Akta Angkasa, arguably, had the numbers in its line-up to fill up any stage in town. Initially running a roll call of members that was almost sizeable enough to have a competitive football match, Akta Angkasa were a logistical challenge and massive musical puzzle.

But the band’s main man Zul (guitars), who oversees the studio and live creative process, has since saw it fit to trim the numbers down to a much more manageable quartet.

Ground control: Akta Angkasa – (from left) Zul, Mamel, Ned and Fie – one of the nation’s more daring and boundary-pushing rock groups, out to make a mark in the music circleswith its Kognitif EP.

Despite the smaller line-up, the band now consisting of Ned (bass), Mamel (drums) and Fie (synth) has lost none of its jugular-grabbing musical dynamics. All the band members are in their mid-20s, and looking to soak up as much experience in the music scene as possible. But, as Zul shared, the band did not start out with a grand masterplan to take over the musical landscape with a literal army of musicians.

Instead, the band started out purely as a simple musical concept between Zul and former guitarist Nabil nearly five years ago.

“It was around 2005 when Nabil and I had this enthusiastic conversation about music. We wrote our first guitar lines together spontaneously, calculating distinctive time signatures for each chord/bar, so much so that we did not sleep that night,” remembered Zul, who remains the band’s figurehead. “We knew he had found something special.”

Special and unique Akta Angkasa’s music certainly is. In many ways, if the band’s music is a reflection of the kind of challenging experimental edge and vision that it wishes to charton the musical landscape, then the quartet is on the right path.

This Saturday, Akta Angkasa share the support slots at Bentley Music Auditorium in Selangor with fellow local contemporaries Citizens of Ice Cream as they open the highly anticipated double bill show by

Lymbyc Systym (United States) and Lite (Japan).

Presented by Soundscape Records, the performances by Lymbyc Systym and Lite, comprising indie electronica and avant rock respectively, point to an evening of uncommon frequencies.

A decade ago, a local band like Akta Angkasa would have struggled to get its music heard, let alone be a part of a growing network of like-minded acts worldwide. But things have changed in the non-mainstream scene here, with rock fans increasingly embracing artful and diverse genres. There is a sustainable and loyal following, especially in the Klang Valley, for sonically adventurous music these days and Akta Angkasa, without a surprise, is one of the acts that has stood out.

While often lumped together with the by-the-numbers (instrumental) post rock bands out there who were born out of a fascination for newer bands such as Mogwai, Sigur Ros and Explosions in the Sky, Akta Angkasa’s music seems to share more resemblance to free form jazz exponents and the searching spirit of Thurston Moore’s (Sonic Youth) independent projects than those bands, although Zul tips his hat to some essentials of rock and punk when it comes to collective inspiration.

“Pink Floyd and Fugazi. It’s pretty self-explanatory,” he added.

Not content with pushing the envelope by being purely instrumental, the band take plenty of pride in being generally musically unpredictable, with musical parts zipping back and forth rather than a solid song structure taking precedence.

As much as his guitar sets the creative tone, Zul believes in the need to move away from traditional songwriting measures. That is what sets the band apart, he reckons.

“While most of the bands have their repetitive verse-chorus-verse methodology, we prefer otherwise,” he passionately shared. “We often strenuously challenge ourselves to not write songs the traditional way.”

As if that’s not enough to send the popsters scurrying away like vampires in sunlight, the band has piled on yet another layer of complexity on top of this by adhering strictly to the mandate that they will only play one song per show, even if it is a 30-minute song.

“We embrace the metaphorical language of storytelling to the audience,” said Zul, “A short song will never do.”

Not many bands are brave enough to go out there and disregard the inherent value of song structures. It takes an even bolder bunch to glorify the more abstract side of music. But Zul insists that the move is hardly a gimmick, but more of an extension of the band’s personalities and interests.

“I’m a graphic artist by profession, so to spot any great difference between creating music and art is difficult,” elaborated Zul, who gave the example of the band’s use of strobe lights in the past to enhance the audience’s live experience. “One of our cardinal goals is to have a verisimilitude impact on the audience watching us so that when the performance is over, the experience remains very vivid in their thoughts.”

Akta Angkasa recently released its first proper release, an EP titled Kognitif, which properly captures the band at its progressive best. The EP has been well-received by fans of the band, something that is motivating the band to try and achieve more.

“Our biggest motivation now is to document all of the parts we’ve written from the first year that have never been properly recorded or released previously. If it does happen, then we should be ready to record a full album.”

But as much as the band appears to enjoy the creative freedom, the members are not completely disconnected from reality. The gig machine must go on and Akta Angkasa is ever ready to impress audiences not just from a conceptual level. Zul himself grew up with a staple diet of early local independent bands such as Hijrah, Infectious Maggots and Future Primitive, so he certainly understands the value of the local independent music circuit and broader support from the masses.

“I really hope to see more bands challenging themselves to shape their own identities. It’s never easy, I must stress, but it isn’t impossible either,” concluded Zul, who counts local electro pop band Tenderfist as one of the bands he is very impressed with. “Go pick up your own instruments and light up the soul inside.”

Akta Angkasa appears alongside Citizens of Ice Cream, Lymbyc Systym (US) and Lite (Japan) at a Soundcape Records experimental showcase this Saturday at Bentley Music Auditorium, Mutiara Damansara in Selangor. Tickets cost RM65 and are available from Rock Corner outlets in the Klang Valley. Doors open 7.30pm. Browse soundscape-records.com for gig details. For more info on Akta Angkasa, visit senipekik.com.