Camlann – ‘Circa 1983’ review: Indonesian post-punk trio brood under the disco ball

Young Jakarta band stride confidently into second album with synth-powered darkwave anthems

The enduring magnetism of ’80s post-punk has birthed modern bands like Interpol, The Killers and Bloc Party, who’ve focused on various specific aspects of the genre’s sonic diversity. Camlann, a dark post-punk band formed in 2019 by three teenagers hailing from Jakarta, Indonesia, have gladly joined this tribe.

Camlann may be named for a medieval confrontation (the Battle of Camlann, the legendary last fight where King Arthur fell), but they draw specifically from the well of ’80s gothic and synth-powered rock. It’s the same territory mapped out by acts like Depeche Mode, The Sisters of Mercy, The Cure, and Joy Division. On their first album, 2020’s ‘The Forgotten Lost Fragments’, you could hear elements of Killing Joke and Soft Cell – influences worn on their sleeves in tribute but also contributors to the smooth, upbeat sheen of their music.

On their second album, ‘Circa 1983,’ Ony Godfrey, Bayu Triyudanto, and Fauzan Pratama shake off these softer materials. Instead, they fully embrace baroque energy by diving into the unease and miserabilism that permeate the discography of Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and New Order. Their second album is 10 tracks of brooding post-punk with flamboyantly gothic leanings – a sound complemented by the band’s stage look of big hair, black lipstick and white make-up, and jean jackets.

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It opens with ‘1983’, which with its classic synth ’80s dance vibe combined with a very current electro dance sensibility, was a no-brainer for a single. The track shares a similar aesthetic with the ethereal, galloping ‘I’m Nobody’, also a song to dance to in the dim, gloomy light of your room after dusk.

On nearly all the songs, Godfrey delivers her vocals like a cross between Siouxsie Sioux and Peter Murphy, channelling the spirit of Ian Curtis being mourned by a drunk Marc Almond. She reins herself in on ‘Give Me Light’, a romp through a wretched landscape of heartache with a blank face and restrained outrage – and one of the best tracks on the record. The atmosphere is set with reverb-soaked synth drums, a bass like it came from the depths of a cave and sporadic, angular guitar chords.

Camlann have crafted a retro aesthetic that leans heavily on the ’80s – take their grainy music video for ‘Metropolitan Boy’ – that supports the throwback atmosphere of their songs. Listeners who actually lived through the era may mistake the band’s songs as postcards of invented nostalgia, romanticising a time they never lived through. But to accuse Camlann of being genre tourists is to overlook the small nods in the music and lyrics to their Indonesian context.

When they sing about how “we both drowned in the beauty of those city lights” on ‘Metropolitan Boy’, Camlannare inevitably swooning in the blurred lights of a car ride through industrialising Jakarta in the ’80s. On ‘I’m Nobody’, Godfrey accuses someone of “spreading propaganda worse than a missionary”, a small, pointed evocation of a specific history of Christian evangelism in Indonesia.

On their second LP, Camlann flesh out their coldwave vision, conjuring an atmosphere of mood and melancholy that’s like dancing in the dark under a disco ball with other folk in gothic garb, sweating without a care in the Indonesian heat.

Details

Indonesia post-punk coldwave band Camlann album review Circa 1983
  • Release date: May 21
  • Record label: Cold Transmission Music
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