Graham Reid | | <1 min read
I guess when Creative New Zealand were looking for someone to write music to raise awareness of the country's historical and cultural heritage they wouldn't have had a long list. Right at the top would have been Reyne anyway.
One of this country's most gifted, probing and intelligent writers, she delivered (if nothing else) the stunning Passenger album a few years ago based on her train journey in Germany.
Passengers is a dark, dense and gripping album, and the fact it was conceptual probably recommended her even more to the CNZ people: here she has written an equally dark, emotionally intense and musically arresting concept album about a woman Susannah Hawes who left England in 1874 to start life in the unforgiving and indifferent West Coast wilds on New Zealand.
The narrative is sketched in with economy -- Hawes' reflection on her tiny hometown of Gravesend, the journey, the metaphoric character History who resents being obliged to be attached to this insignificant figure, Susannah speaking to Death about History, her husband going to the Boer War . . .
And all this is delivered in lean poetry and electrifying folk-noir or doom-laden ballads driven by intense and taut guitars, and soundscapes of the kind Reyne deployed to such great effect on Passenger.
This is not an easy listen, but it is also an impressive achievement and the songs, while part of the concept, are also singular.
This is a rare one.