What is Yes No Wave? The netlabel, the first and oldest in Indonesia, started as a reflection of Yogyakarta's vibrant indie scene. Yes No Wave founder Woto Wibowo (aka Wok the Rock) wanted to start a label that existed outside capitalism and the constraints of commercial radio. It's a very "Jogja" idea, but it's also one that's been wildly successful.
Yes No Wave was responsible for the early releases of some of the biggest indie bands in Indonesia. The label released early records from both White Shoes and The Couples Company and Senyawa—two of the biggest "indie" bands in recent years, and also two of its most diverse. The two bands, in many ways, represent just how wide Yes No Wave's tastes swing. White Shoes and The Couples Company are classic Indonesian pop revivalists. Senyawa are manic noise makers, the kind of artful screamers that rise out of Jogja's thriving noise scene.
"Yes No Wave is the antithesis to No Wave," Woto told VICE. "Yes No Wave releases are very diverse and we can't be defined by a single sound."
The label's eclectic taste is one of the reasons behind its lasting success. The other is its business model—or lack of one. Yes No Wave releases all of its records for free—posting the download links on their website for anyone to take.
"Our main goal is to place ourselves outside of the industry," Woto said. "In this capitalistic world, Yes No Wave is an experiment, a free music model for all music lovers."
So you want to get into Yes No Wave, but you don't know where to start? Don't worry, here's a list of their best releases specifically curated for every kind of listener we could think of. Happy listening!
Entry-Level Hipsters / 'Pensi' Kids / GoAheadCore Crowd
These artists are the Indonesian version of Tame Impala or Bon Iver, in terms of popularity and mass-appeal. They all started out in the local indie scene, playing to small crowds at DIY shows, before rising to headline festivals before thousands.
Best case scenario, these bands are entry points for young kids hoping to dive deeper into Indonesia indie scene. Worst case scenario they are the token "hip band" people throw out to impress their basic-ass Coldplay/ Adele loving co-workers.
The sonic boundaries in category of Yes No Wave releases are pretty fluid. White Shoes are retro pop revivalists. Frau is a solo singer-songwriter. The Upstairs are neon-soaked new wave to shake your butt to. But they all have one thing in common: nothing here will offend your parents or your normal friends. This is the kind of music that's still accessible enough to secure tobacco company money—a big spender in Indonesia's concert industry.
This list is also the best way to shut down any "Yes No Wave is all lo-fi, avant-garde stuff," arguments. Don't believe us? Then just read on.
1) The Upstairs - Ku Nobatkan Jadi Fantasi
2) Frau - Starlit Carousel
3) White Shoes and The Couples Company - Senja Menggila
Dark, Mystical Folk
Tired of the flannel-wearing folk crowd too focused on singing about dusk, twilight, and other beautiful nature-y stuff? Then check out Rabu, a midnight black folk duo makes folk music for Javanese funerals.
1) Rabu - Renjana
The #PunksNotDead Kids
Today's Indonesian punk bands are trying to get as far from that "classic loud-and-fast" sound as possible. But the bands on this part of the list still like to keep punk raw and snotty. These songs are all fast, short, and to the fucking point. It's music to circle pit to, which is the whole point, isn't it? If you're into showing up, moshing your ass off, then getting drunk on cheap wine afterwards, then this list is probably for you.
So what if most of these albums sound like they were recorded in your uncle's garage? So what if they're never going to get invited to play Coachella, or even WeTheFest? This is straight up econo-punk at it's best—in-and-out in 20 minutes or less. Talk about efficiency.
1) The Kuda - Mistery Torpedo
2) Bequiet - Maybe Someday We Will Follow Him
3) Nervous Breakdown - Never Green
Somehow dangdut, the music of working class Indonesia, became hip with the "cool kids". How? Well, part of it probably has to do with the sheer number of grown-up metal and hardcore kids who suddenly "discovered" groups from 20 years ago. There's a clear through-line today from studded belts and black hoodies to DJ nights and disco tracks.
But Terbujurkaku was there first. He took dangdut jams, stripped them down, and repacked the songs with breakneck breakcore beats. The result is dangdut for scene kids. You can finally listen to your parent's music without feeling like you're losing your indie cred.
1) TerbujurKaku - Megamix Album Vol. 2
So you like Indonesian horror movies and melodic baritone punk? Have we got the band for you.
1) Kelelawar Malam - Desmodus Rotundus
Music for the Brave
So you say you've got guts? You have extreme tastes?
Well, how about Adit Budjubunen Ala Buse's O.S.T Maujud—an album initially written as the soundtrack to a horror film? Or Sodadosa's Murmuring Chaos—a sound collage made out of porn and horror movies? Extreme enough?
No? How about Dialita's Dunia Milik Kita? Yeah, on the surface, it's a perfectly pleasant album. But it's also sung by the survivors of Indonesia's 1965 anti-communist purges. Think you have the balls to play this loud in front of the country's vehemently anti-communist crowd? We don't.
1) Dialita - Dunia Milik Kita
2) Adit Bujbunen Ala Buse - O.S.T Maujud
'Kampung' Hair Metal
Are you into Guns `N Roses and dad jokes?
1) Sangkakala - Macanista EP
Rully Shabara, the vocal extraordinaire of the experimental duo Senyawa, has more releases than anyone on else on Yes No Wave. So far, he has released seven albums on the label, including everything he's done under the moniker Zoo.
Beyond Yes No Wave, Rully is unstoppable. He's living the dream of every Indonesian indie band—touring the world, releasing albums to rave reviews overseas, and performing at international music festivals. Yeah, we're sort of obsessed with performing abroad—or "going international" as it's called in Indonesia.
To a lot of people, Rully is an idol. People don't just watch the guy, they worship him. After shows, crowds of fans wait around just to say hi. Whenever Senyawa or Zoo announces a new show, the Facebook comments are full of people saying, "let's catch up!" and "let's talk after you perform!" I mean, shit, I bet Mike Patton doesn't even get the same treatment.
But Rully is more than Senyawa and Zoo. He's also in Gaung Jagat, Raung Jagat, Cari Padi, and so many more. That's why we're calling this genre "Rully Shabara-core." It might not exist yet, but a few more years of this level of productivity, and he could just have a sub-genre all his own.