Paddy Free: Karekare: Te reo o te whenua (Dub Conspiracy)

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Paddy Free and Richard Nunns: Whai Atu
Paddy Free: Karekare: Te reo o te whenua (Dub Conspiracy)

Despite being one of the founding fathers of New Zealand electronica -- in the ambitious multi-media outfit Pitch Black with Mike Hodgson -- Paddy Free is perhaps largely unknown to a new generation of musicians.
I believe he makes much of his living off-shore these days and has always struck me as preferring to be out of the spotlight if he isn't performing (which has been infrequent as Hodgson too is stacking up frequent flyer points).
Paddy still lives out on the West Coast of Auckland, and the title of this, his first solo album, confirms it. So does the sound.
Imbued with te reo and Maori spirituality, and with assistance from Richard Nunns (playing traditional instruments), Tiki Taane, Waimihi Hotere and others, this one has a brooding and sometimes windswept quality that conjures up the environment around Karekare in the centuries before Europeans arrived.
Very much a sonic landscape (or providing a backdrop for a Maori dance company, which would also make sense), the album opens with the mysterious call of flute then pounds through harder, trancelike sections before the loving title track which possesses an eerie stillness at its heart.
Maori flutes can be melodically limited but of exceptional emotional power and it is Nunns' gift that he can bring that quality out in projects such as this.
Karekare: Te reo o te whenua is also ambient music in the most positive meaning of the phrase: it is an aural environment in which Free creates the sounds of the bush, birds and Maori instruments in a way which evoke the timelessness of the West Coast.
It is also, on repeat listenings, an album of telling small detail which get a bit lost on a first hearing in the rather more grand sweep of its conception.
It took Paddy a long time to get this solo album out of his system, but it was worth the wait.
Expect to hear many of these pieces in intelligent docos, movies and theatre productions for a very long time to come.

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