MALIQ & D’Essentials Captures Emotion and Phenomena in Can Machines Fall In Love? Album Cover

On May 30, 2024, MALIQ & D’Essentials released their ninth album, Can Machines Fall In Love? Following a year-long workshop that began in June 2023, the band unveiled seven tracks, including two singles that have captivated many: "Kita Bikin Romantis" and "Aduh." Not only are MALIQ & D’Essentials' songs enchanting, but the album's cover art has also sparked conversation, igniting curiosity about what the band is trying to convey when discussing the seemingly contradictory concepts of machines and falling in love.

Dimasz Joey, Creative Director of MAD Haus, shared with Grafis Masa Kini that each year, MALIQ & D’Essentials and their team seek a premise to communicate through their music and associated activities. Reflecting on the previous year, MALIQ & D’Essentials celebrated their 20th anniversary in the music industry—a journey marked by countless moments shared with their audience, from first loves to finding true love, marriage, and starting families. According to Joey, over two decades, MALIQ & D’Essentials have accompanied listeners through the highs and lows of life, particularly in matters of the heart. This awareness inspired the band to celebrate the love shared with their fans again. "MALIQ & D’Essentials' song creation is tied to many people's moments, especially love. Our method is to capture the moments and feelings experienced by MALIQ & D’Essentials' members. We try to encapsulate all that in an album, exhibition, and concert," Joey explained. The album Can Machines Fall In Love? is the sweet fruit of last year's two-decade concert. "When they (MALIQ & D’Essentials) were creating songs, their moments and feelings were mutually romantic after last year's concert. Those feelings and moments were captured in the songs, making the songwriting process very natural."

Amid this love-filled atmosphere, one thing caught MALIQ & D’Essentials' attention and ultimately became the premise for the album Can Machines Fall In Love? and its visuals: the rising phenomenon of AI increasingly taking over many sectors of daily human life. This concern resonated deeply with MALIQ & D’Essentials and their team. "Conceptually, we were talking with a partner at MAD Haus who is an AI (Artificial Intelligence) expert. Yes, AI is that sophisticated; it can create anything, but there's one thing it can't make—emotion. We felt that creating something from emotion is MALIQ & D’Essentials' strength," Joey revealed. During the process, MALIQ & D’Essentials revisited their journey of creating songs, from simple technological assistance to today's advanced tools. Yet, their songs have always resonated with a cross-generational audience. Joey emphasized, "This isn't about technology. Yes, technology is just a helping element. The main ingredient is MALIQ & D’Essentials itself."


Translating emotion and the AI phenomenon into visuals posed a unique challenge, given that these two elements are often seen as opposites. The first step taken by MALIQ & D’Essentials and their team was to find someone capable of interpreting this concept. "We've always been a great match with Anton Ismael. He's excellent at commercial photography, but what makes him special is his mantra, 'I capture moments, not models,'" Joey recounted. After brainstorming with Anton Ismael, a senior photographer, MALIQ & D’Essentials decided to create a simple and authentic album cover that could convey the concept of Can Machines Fall in Love?—a kaleidoscope of MALIQ & D’Essentials' precious moments in one feeling. "Anton Ismael ended up capturing just one computer. When talking about 'machines,' of course, we think of computers. We also made it without beauty shots to show MALIQ & D’Essentials as they are. We used an old tube computer because the band loves vintage items with timeless designs," Joey explained. The mid-century design concept was also a significant inspiration for this album's visuals.

Joey described the creative process behind the visual creation of Can Machines Fall In Love? with Anton Ismael as very enjoyable, given MALIQ & D’Essentials' long-standing trust in his work. "Pak’e (as Anton Ismael is affectionately called) besides being an extraordinary photographer and artist, is also a good listener. He never puts his ego first. So, he absorbed conversations with MALIQ & D’Essentials to understand why we wanted this concept," Joey shared. With his ability to translate narratives into photographs, Anton Ismael successfully combined the AI phenomenon with the feeling of love into one simple photo: a vintage tube computer with an old-fashioned effect and the typography Can Machines Fall In Love? "Such a simple visual treatment closely reflects MALIQ & D’Essentials' current feelings and moments," Joey said.

MALIQ & D’Essentials have always been a band that pays attention to the design of their releases and products offered to their listeners. Joey explained that as musicians, MALIQ & D’Essentials believe in two keywords: everlasting and generational connection. They want their music to be appreciated across mediums. Another artistic breakthrough launched by MALIQ & D’Essentials to celebrate Can Machines Fall In Love? wasa hearing session within a visual exhibition held at ASHTA until June 9. "We realize that we have long-time listeners who have known MALIQ & D’Essentials for over a decade, but there is also a new generation that often wonders, 'What kind of band is MALIQ & D’Essentials?'" Joey said. From this concern, MALIQ & D’Essentials and their team believed that providing an experience of listening to and seeing MALIQ & D’Essentials' two-decade journey in the music world could help the public better understand the group. "With the exhibition, listeners have a shared experience of getting to know MALIQ & D’Essentials. So far, the exhibition is working. Almost a million people have come and felt different emotions when listening to MALIQ & D’Essentials' songs or seeing their journey; some cried, smiled, and laughed," Joey said. The exhibition design, an extension of the album Can Machines Fall In Love?, was supported by Studiowoork, the design studio behind MALIQ & D’Essentials' product or activation designs.

Besides the exhibition, MALIQ & D’Essentials also offered merchandise with timeless and straightforward designs. "We like minimalistic designs. Plain designs with just MALIQ & D’Essentials' typography and the album title," Joey said. For Joey, MALIQ & D’Essentials' merchandise holds a strong bond with their fans. "They want to show that their identity is closely linked to MALIQ & D’Essentials. That's what we want to build in this merchandise," he added.

Design has played a significant role in MALIQ & D’Essentials' journey in the music industry over the past two decades. Joey explained that MAD Haus, MALIQ & D’Essentials' collaboration "house," stands for (M)usic, (A)rt, and (D)esign. These three pillars are inseparable—just as Joey mentioned, MALIQ & D’Essentials operate with these three pillars. "From the beginning, design has always been an important part of MALIQ & D’Essentials. The band's approach to design can be seen in the evolution of their album visuals over time. We continue to implement good design because it helps shape MALIQ & D’Essentials' character," Joey said. As a music group, MALIQ & D’Essentials also want their works to be enjoyed by all five senses, including sight. "We believe that emotions can be conveyed when the eyes also feel something. The five senses are what we try to implement. We also tend to judge something by its visuals. Therefore, good design will help listeners process MALIQ & D’Essentials' works," he continued. In the future, MALIQ & D’Essentials will offer another visual breakthrough during their major concert tour in ten cities across Indonesia. "When people watch a concert, they usually see key visuals that are very musical, like someone playing the guitar. We don't like that. We want the feeling built when people see the concert visuals to be like seeing an exhibition," Joey concluded. MALIQ & D’Essentials will soon announce the tour dates for the album Can Machines Fall In Love? in various cities across Indonesia.

About the Author

Alessandra Langit

Alessandra Langit is a writer with seven years of diverse media experience. She loves exploring the quirks of girlhood through her visual art and reposting Kafka’s diary entries at night.