In 2023, In (No) Sensation, PAS Band’s debut full-length album, exactly turn 28 years old. Released in 1995, this album can be considered an important album because it became a kind of prophecy that PAS Band, a music group that has been established since 1992 will become a successful and famous band in the future.
Two years earlier in 1993 PAS Band released the EP4 Through the Sap. This mini album containing four songs is indeed important because you could say this release was a pioneer of local independent music releases in the 90s decade.
Two decades earlier it did exist Ghede Chokra’s, an album belonging to the band made by Benny Soebardja, Shark Move, which can be considered a pioneer of independent music releases because it was actually released independently through the Shark Move Records label in 1971. However, 4 Through the Sap became important because it represented a different era. 4 Through the Sap sold a sizeable 10,000 copies in its time, and this EP became the fire that ignited other independent releases that appeared in the 90s.
Back to In (No) Sensation, this album is no less important for several reasons. First, from an economic point of view, after previously releasing 4 Through the Sap independently, on this debut album PAS Band signed a contract with the major label Aquarius Musikindo. This means that In (No) Sensation has the opportunity for greater exposure and distribution. As a result, as explained above, PAS Band then moved on to become a band that was increasingly recognized throughout the archipelago.
Second, in terms of build and musical arrangement, as well as recording quality, In (No) Sensation certainly surpasses 4 Through the Sap. With a duration of 61 minutes and 14 seconds, this album which contains 13 songs has more mature material. The alternative rock played by PAS Band on this album is a mix and match of several rock fragments such as hard rock, funk, to hip-rock.
PAS Band is indeed phenomenal, formed since 1992, the band fronted by Yukie (vocal), Trisno (bass), Bengbeng (guitar), and Richard (drums) started their musical career in the Bandung underground scene, this was because they coincidentally came from the same campus, namely Padjadjaran University (Unpad). Initially they played from pensi to pensi, or at underground music events that were stretching at that time. Even though they had disbanded personnel—more precisely the drummer when Richard Mutter left after the release of the Psycho I.D. album in 1998 and was replaced by Sandy Andarusman—PAS Band has managed to exist to this day.
When publishing a list of the 150 Best Indonesian Albums in 2007, Rolling Stone Indonesia magazine placed In (No) Sensation is ranked number 101. Subjectively, in my opinion, this album should be able to rank higher because of the high quality of the album. As a drummer, I personally really like this album for one specific reason: Richard Mutter. The drumming style of this drummer who is also a skateboarder is the reason why I finally decided to learn and play the drums.
Since the first time I heard this album when I was a teenager, I was amazed at Richard’s drumming. The main advantage of Richard’s drumming is the use of double bass drums or double pedals which are sprinkled here and there. For a drummer, playing with one pedal is already difficult, let alone having to play double pedals to get tighter rhythms and denser notes.
However, In (No) Sensation isn’t just a drumming thing. The entire structure of the album’s music is indeed interesting. Yukie’s charismatic vocals, sometimes singing casually, sometimes shouting loudly, Trisno’s strong bass line and often enhanced by slapping techniques here and there, and what is equally important is Bengbeng’s guitar playing which sounds very prominent. Bengbeng plays a lot of guitar effects, ranging from loud distortion, a clean sound with funk beats, to the use of the whammy effect which often appears when a melodic guitar solo part has to be played. Bengbeng is also famous for his harmonic guitar strumming and tapping techniques. From the first track to the last, In (No) Sensation is loaded with a mix and match of all these musical techniques.
As an example we can look at the most famous single from this album, “Impresi” (Impression). This song opens with a double bass beat drums from Richard, later with the inclusion of guitar and bass. Yukie sings loudly mocking human hypocrisy with the verse “Hanya pemenang yang kita yakini” (only victors we believe in). In the melodic guitar solo, Bengbeng then goes crazy with his whammy effect.
“Impresi”, “Si Berat”, “Konsepsi”, and “Dogma” are four songs that use Indonesian lyrics on this album. The rest PAS Band uses English lyrics in songs such as “For The Truth”, “War”, “Poisoned Garden” or “Bang Your Head”.
The use of English in most of the songs on this album is a manifestation of the socio-political conditions at the time this album was released. When the New Order was still in power and could regulate all aspects of Indonesian human life. Including regulating what is allowed and what is not allowed to be discussed in everyday life. The culture of censorship is still strong with the existence of the Ministry of Information and Harmoko’s mouthpiece, who can banned, or destroyed messages that were considered subversive and threatened the stability of the New Order.
Often what gets banned is the mass media. However, critical music and lyrics are also subject to plagues. During the New Order era, musicians often self-censored so as not to get into trouble with the regime. However, then there are many musicians who do the smart way, they cat and mouse with the regime. The trick was that instead of using Indonesian in the lyrics of their songs, they instead used English lyrics with the belief that English would be more difficult for the New Order to perceive.
In my opinion, PAS Band does the same thing in In (No) Sensation. Most of the song lyrics on this album are in English to circumvent the New Order’s censorship culture and restrictions. By using English, PAS Band can freely speak the real truth amidst the many lies of the New Order, talk about the war that destroyed humanity, to the New Order itself as a powerful political machine that made Indonesian people live in pseudo peace.
Recorded in about 6 months, In (No) Sensation was released in mid-1995. Within the first week the album sold 100,000 copies. A few months later this album even broke 400,000 copies. An extraordinary achievement for an album of English alternative rock music. PAS Band also made a video clip for the single “Impresi” which was produced by their own drummer, Richard Mutter, and Cerahati’s agency. However, unfortunately this video clip was banned by a television station because it featured a moshing scene which at that time was considered rude and indeed not common to the wider community.
A year after its release In (No) Sensation, in 1996 an alternative music festival was held in Jakarta entitled Jakarta Pop Alternative Festival. At this time PAS Band already has its own place in the Indonesian music industry and is aligned with Netral (now NTRL) and Nugie to play on the same stage with foreign bands Foo Fighters, Sonic Youth and Beastie Boys.
HAI Magazine noted that at this festival, former Nirvana drummer who later became Foo Fighters frontman, guitarist and vocalist, Dave Grohl was amazed when PAS Band played on stage. This isn’t to say it’s inferior and PAS Band needs validation from Dave Grohl to be a good band. However, PAS Band is indeed a good band. So, it’s only natural that someone like Dave Grohl would be amazed at their appearance.
28 years later, we can learn a lot from PAS Band’s debut album. First, persistence and unyielding attitude must be embraced if we want the music we compose to be widely known. This is because PAS Band didn’t suddenly become famous, in the past they had to work hard selling demos to labels here and there until finally In (No) Sensation was released by a major label. Second, there are always ways to criticize the despotic power, as well as talk about, proclaim and defend those who are oppressed at the grassroots. One of them is what PAS Band does, namely using English lyrics to discuss various social and political problems in Indonesia in their songs.
Personally for me In (No) Sensation is an important album that inspired me to make music. If I hadn’t listened to Richard Mutter’s drum beat on this album, which I made up for when I was still in junior high school, I probably would never have learned to play the drums and then become a musician. My admiration for Richard Mutter has reached the cult level. In the end, I could only listen to PAS Band’s albums from 4 Through the Sap, In (No) Sensation, IndieVduality, to Psycho I.D. After that, when Richard Mutter decided to leave PAS Band, I couldn’t listen to any of their albums anymore.
In fact, Richard’s drumming on the album In (No) Sensation, in my opinion, was too good and incomparable, so when Richard Mutter returned to the PAS Band formation and became a drumer with Sandy Andarusman, they released an EP Unscripted Xperience in in 2021 and I can no longer listen to it because of that earlier, I can’t move on from In (No) Sensation.
Listen In (No) Sensation carefully! Undoubtedly we will feel pulled back to the decade of the 90s. The era when alternative rock music was at its peak all over the world, the time when the New Order was still in power with repression and authoritarianism, the time when many bands from the underground scene signed contracts with major labels and entered the mainstream of the Indonesian music industry.
PS: Previously featured in Bahasa Indonesia on Pop Hari Ini.