It began in the dark. Static on the wall. Film scratches like random coursing electrons, the weaving guitar lines urging them on while rumbles of drum thunder rolled across the columns. Then, a hint of colour, a column lit, and the surging melodies start to rise.
“It was the first time Deepset played side by side in a line,” Asshad explained, “it was challenging ‘cause we also had to sync with the visuals.”
“There’s actually a lot of things going on,” Peja continued, “what you see is just us and the visuals, but there’re actually more than 8 people working on stage (including visual controllers and on-stage sound crew) and everything had to be coordinated and synchronized.”
We were chilling at the counter entrance to Suffolk House in Penang, where history was made just under an hour ago. It was the DA+C festival, a unique showcase of some of the best local visual, digital and cultural arts has to offer and Malaysia’s first ever visual-mapping experience, featuring the scene’s more exquisite, experimental and intelligently playful musicians: Flica, Deepset and Rainf.
“We worked with the Kontak group for the visuals and they had the freedom to interpret the music,” said Asshad.
The festival paired up digital artists with musicians, experimenting with the space and architecture of Suffolk House to tell of their collaborative stories.
But to call it a mere showcase would be insulting. DA+C went beyond the gallery/gig format of mere features: exploring the distance and relation between the historical and the current; the culture from which our identities are born and the well from which we would all inevitably draw upon.
A little closer into our memories we dwelled, pieces of our post-colonial pop culture, foreign yet strangely, aptly familiar, like old TV re-runs. Layered sound-scapes merged seamlessly, trailing with emotions, urging us to feel again. Columns splashed with solid hues, spreading in a diagonal line, and, without moving, we walked the coloured trails together.
Fresh from yet another awe-inspiring performance, the Deepset quartet wore mixed expressions between fatigue, confidence and satisfaction. An air of easy camaraderie only 9 years of shared musical experience could muster, hung between them.
Lufti sat relaxed and contemplative as our conversation crossed between the music, the performance and the band.
“We’ve come to the stage where we’re very comfortable about playing and experimenting the music together,” he said, “We know what we want and we’re more focused about (making) the music as a band.”
“Playing instrumental lets us express and understand ourselves better,”Asshad explained, “the channeling of expressions comes more naturally and easier.”
The band started in 2002 and, after discovering that Lufti’s vocals were infinitely more emotive in guitar-rifts and melodies, began their instrumental journey in 2004. Since then, the band has explored, experimented and matured progressively through the sometimes harrowing waters of the Malaysian indie scene, emerging stronger, tighter and ever more expressive. The musical bond not only brought them closer as a band, but expanded Deepset’s horizons and potentials.
“I think we’ve developed a distinctive signature Deepset kind of sound and music,”said Lufti.
Thoughts and emotions blended as the journey takes us deeper into the realm of our colours, solid but fragile at the same time. The sonic-scape, unrelenting, majestic, at times sorrowful, bracing depression with a grim courage, then glowing once again, the hint of desperate hope, the echoes of defiance to an indifferent world. Then transforming, the lower walls flooded with solid blue, a bird glides, glides into the storm and the harrowing sea beyond.
“Howl is an essay about the fallacies of post-modernism,” Lufti talked about the voice sample building amongst the cool guitar-rifts in the currently untitled new track, the one that delved into the mind and gradually builds up with a soaring melodious thunder-scape, evoking the most intense emotions. “It’s about stuff you see in our daily routines, the things we talk and think about. The things we feel and experience every day.”
The epic sonic masterpiece is a reflection of the post-modern cultural condition we inhabit, where anything can mean everything and everything can mean nothing at the same time. A rendition of collected personal experiences, an expressive, emotive reaction born of intellectual dissatisfaction and a determined cry for the mind’s true freedom and the heart’s true voices.
“It’s really all about the emotions,” Lufti mused and the rest nodded in agreement.
“Sometimes, it’s actually a very depressing song, but we have people telling us that they feel it’s happy instead,” Asshad tells me, friendly humour in his eyes, “but actually it doesn’t matter, as long as you can feel something for yourself.”
“The biggest compliment is to have someone come up to us and say that they felt it here.” He concluded, hand patting his heart.
Instead of replacing history, acknowledges and builds upon it. Rising, rising up to express the tenacity of spirit and intellect, structuring and re-structuring, narrating both the personal and the collective. Connecting past influences to expand the horizons of our minds. A journey, not walked nor merely seen but felt, experienced and made free.
As history is being told, history is being made. Time melds into one as sounds, melodies, rhythms and emotions, always emotions, come together, falling, sinking, reminiscing and ultimately rising again.
It was indeed a performance of pure, relentless beautiful emotions from Deepset. An honest, powerful expression of howling guitars, epic roaring rhythms and weaving layers of melodious wizardry, telling their stories as the colourful visual journey takes us beyond our minds’ confines and challenges us to truly face ourselves and the pounding of our hearts.
A worthy follow-up from the mind-blowing feature at The Actors Studio, Lot 10 just two months ago that serves only to reinforce the band as one of the most under-rated instrumental powerhouse in the scene.
And as Lufti and Asshad so eloquently describe it, it’s not the fame they’re after, it’s all about the emotions.
A rush to the deep, a rise to the light.
This is Deepset.