Graham Reid | | 1 min read
In a recent interview with Elsewhere, Tama Waipara conceded some of the songs on this diverse but thoroughly consistent album were built up from rhythms, was flattered by the comparisons with Rufus Wainwright in some material and Talking Heads/Peter Gabriel in others.
If that sounds like an album of spot-the-references, that is not the case.
Here Waipara makes a very clear break with some aspects of his past, although what he has learned in theatre has clearly infiltrated songs -- like the eerie and urban Night Vision where he stalks -- while at the same time his background in Opotiki and within the Maori world is evident in the lovely closer Sunshine on the Water. Here all the production of previous songs is stripped away for an acoustic guitar ballad. It sounds about as backporch and downhome as you can imagine, and is a delightful song to close the album with.
And cleverly woven through these lyrics are discreet political and social messages, disarmingly beautiful melodies, Pasifika references, a kind of pan-world music overview and a classy pop song in The Hunter which could be at home in beat-driven Rio as in rural Rangiora (or on a Wainwright album where its soaring melodic line would fit right in).
Waipara has been quick to acknowledge the importance of producer Aaron Nevezie and certainly this sounds like something finely crafted, but not so much that it looses personality. It might not be as "unashamedly rugged" as he says, but you do take his point. It feels inhabited.
This is an album of the old style: distinctive and diverse songs woven into a tapestry which takes you on a journey and into unexpected places from Waipara.
Feels like a whole new beginning from him. And that is exciting.
Final point: This album is astutely structured into a clever and quietly compelling arc. Pity then that once again Waipara wraps his gifts in such a downbeat if not dull cover which does nothing to entice you in.