Felix Martua (The Jakarta Post)
Tue, December 6, 2022
Happy endings and creative emancipation are chronicled in Paradisa, the alt-rock artist’s latest album, which deliberately forgoes the shackles of genre and mainstream-oriented norms.
Jack Alfredo is in a good place and not afraid to flaunt his happiness.
As Romantic Echoes, Jack’s new album Paradisa is described as the final arc of a love story that began with his first studio album, 2020’s Persembahan Dari Masa Lalu (Gift from the past), and continued with 2021’s extended play (EP) Gaung Romantis (Romantic echoes). Like its title implies, Paradisa is an album that brims with love and joy, a happy ending that mirrors Jack’s personal life.
Jack says that life has taught him that happiness is more than just a gift; it is also a lesson.
“There’s a saying, ‘Everything will be beautiful in time,’” the Medan native told The Jakarta Post on Nov. 21, exactly 10 days after Paradisa’s official release. “I finally understand how there is always virtue behind any suffering. That’s why I would have been dishonest and denied God if I closed this story with ugliness instead.”
What is happniess?: Jack Alfredo has released three studio albums under his solo project Romantic Echoes in as many years: ‘Persembahan Dari Masa Lalu’ (2020), ‘Gaung Romantis’ (2021) and this year’s ‘Paradisa’. (JP/Felix Martua) (JP/Felix Martua)
Bigger things ahead
This year’s Anugerah Musik Indonesia (AMI) Awards, which took place in October, made Jack think that his time as a big star is yet to come. Even though he received a nod for Best Album Graphic Design for Gaung Romantis, he feels that the EP should have received more recognition from the local music industry.
Jack said the music industry had yet to “be brave and open its eyes more” to appreciate alternative-leaning musicians like him.
“I wasn’t surprised, seeing how [pop singer-songwriter] Pamungkas finally got his due. I think he had already shown what he was made of, quality-wise, ever since he broke out with [2019’s] Flying Solo,” he continued. “In my case, I think it was simply a matter of time. Indonesians are fervent believers in timing.”
Even though he felt that the industry had overlooked Gaung Romantis, Jack still wanted to continue the EP’s story with the conclusion it deserved in Paradisa.
Jack said how he approached music was “the same as how a director makes films”.
“This is who I am as a musician. If I began a film trilogy, I would see through it until the end,” he asserted.
“Of course, being a trilogy, the time window between the films will be narrow. I’m not going to stop my trilogy just because [previous single] ‘Amarah’ didn’t get enough exposure or something, because my story didn’t stop at either ‘Amarah’ or Gaung Romantis. Once the trilogy finishes, I’ll observe how the Indonesian music audience responds to it.”
One thing for sure, Jack still stands by the unconventional alt-rock nature of Gaung Romantis, a six-track EP that finds the singer-songwriter feeling down in the dumps from a failed relationship.
Jack teased that once the audience listened to the joyous Paradisa, they might finally appreciate the doleful Gaung Romantis.
“Paradisa is the answer,” he continued. “When the protagonist was murdered in the closing track of Gaung Romantis, he later found beauty again, and then some.”
Source of happiness
In contrast to Romantic Echoes’ previous outings, Paradisa lyrically revolves around the nameless male protagonist who was first introduced in Persembahan Dari Masa Lalu, and who finds himself not only in a mutually loving relationship but also recovered in terms of his mental health.
The album’s opening number, “Berantakan” (Disarray), picks up where Gaung Romantis left off, in which the protagonist grapples with loneliness and sardonicism. The following track “Misteri” (Mystery), however, has the protagonist fall hopelessly and unexpectedly in love with a new beau. The protagonist’s budding romance grows into the ray of hope he needs in “Gimme”, later encouraging the couple to take their bond to the next level in “Jatuh Samar” (Faint and Fall) and “Paradisa”, and then culminating in a sense of peace and contentment in “Hagi”.
The romantic allure of Paradisa aside, Jack stressed that love was not the sole source of happiness.
“Happiness, I think, is a lot of things. It’s when you accept yourself. It’s when you let things go. It’s when you become the kind of human being that suits you. It’s when you accept the world as well,” he mused.
In terms of the album’s sonic direction, even though Paradisa is still rooted in rock music, Jack has pushed the envelope by jumbling elements from different genres, all while disregarding the commonly accepted duration for a song.
“Amerta”, a mid-tempo track that his Bollywood-loving grandmother inspired, takes cues from traditional Indian music, incorporating the dholak and sitar. At 6 minutes and 52 seconds, the track is also the second longest in Romantic Echoes’ discography.
Asked about whether the song’s duration would be palatable to mainstream music fans, Jack analogized: “I think the second a painter starts thinking about where they should sell their paintings, that’s when they should stop.”
The piano-driven “Misteri” is Jack’s attempt at a pop-rock and dream pop mash-up. “Hagi”, inspired by a Japanese coastal city of the same name, is an instrumental number that borrows elements from jazz, lounge music and chill-out music. “Mortal One”, which Jack described was a song about “the human brain”, features up-and-coming producer Boodles and documents the musician’s first foray into garage rock, electronica, dubstep and trip-hop.
“In Paradisa, I poured my brain out without thinking about whether I wanted a song to be like rock or jazz or baroque pop,” he said, recalling how he decided not to lose sleep over how he would be identified after Paradisa’s release.
As a whole, Paradisa might sound like it is all over the place, just the way Jack wanted it, since being generic and monotonous was the last thing he wanted as an artist.
“I wanted to be, like, ‘Hey, do you know Romantic Echoes?’ And people would be, like, ‘He’s the hip hop guy, right?’ or ‘He’s the rock guy, right?’” he chuckled. “But I don’t want people going, like, ‘Oh, he’s the typical pop guy, right?’”
Morad, featured in “Jatuh Samar,” felt that Jack was on top of his game with Paradisa.
“Outside our friendship, Jack is one of my favorite artists. I’m already so biased when it comes to him, he’s so good, there’s no criticism I can give,” the blues-rock musician added.
Romantic Echoes’ new album Paradisa is available to stream.