Multi-instrumentalist Jon Iverson is a Balinese music fanatic. So smitten was he upon initial contact with that culture that he added a personal collection of Balinese instruments to an existing arsenal of global soundmakers at his "recording camp" in California. Then, using only a 16-track analog recorder, meticulously assembled an album of Balinese-like music. Iverson keeps excellent time throughout these 8 tracks, none over 8 minutes, and opens a window on the dark timbral hues of the infamous southeast Asian soundworld. He has admitted that the end result is not anything close to being traditional Balinese gamelan, nor could it ever be. While deeply layered and flawlessly performed, his compositions do lack the complexity and sophistication of true gamelan: there are no abrupt silences or brief, unexplainable accelerations or decelerations, or any other conspicuously eccentric divisions of the beat. The typical piece flows undisturbed without any sense of time reordering itself in the way that ordinarily might fling a listener into cosmic trance. Instead they oscillate predictably between degrees of density. Ambient musician Robert Rich contributes some non-traditional bamboo flute to track 7 - "Gambuh Ikat", thereby lifting it above the others. What makes this record memorable however is the production, it's a recording triumph. One almost never encounters the textures of these metallophones, gongs, drums and cymbals so sumptuously preserved as they are here: in immaculately tactile highs and earthily rounded lows. Nor anchored so solidly in space. Though wanting of the ritual mystery from which it has been derived, Alternesia is nonetheless exotic, gorgeous-sounding, handsomely packaged and not quite like anything else from 1999. - Steve Taylor
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