Rob Thorne: Whaia te Maramatanga (Rattle)

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Rob Thorne: Pursue Enlightenment Pt 2; Gateway
Rob Thorne: Whaia te Maramatanga (Rattle)

Those with a greater understanding of Maori spirituality than me will doubtless get more from this gentle, frequently trance-inducing album of taonga puoro (traditional instruments) which evoke the natural world (wind, bird song) and disembodied voices.

Rob Thorne speaks of the album in the liner notes as "a re-aquaintance of ancestor with descendant . . . these ancient practices and their sounds are not just revisited, they are actively reborn, reworked, and reunited with a living approach to the potential of the sound they produce".

That last part puzzles me to be honest (it seems ungrammatical and I have no idea what it means), but the general point of uniting ancient instruments with the present makes very good sense. That is done perhaps at a more subliminal level than on say the Rattle album Ancient Astronaut Theory by Richard Nunns and Dave Lisik where taonga puoro (Nunns) and electronics (Lisik) met on common ground.

Where that music imposed itself, the sounds here -- breathing, spaciously placed notes and melodic lines hanging in the air -- are more ethereal and less allusive.

In the liner notes Thorne also writes of the healing power of traditional Maori instruments and how this cycle of pieces traces a spiritual journey, "a musical passage of identity and connection".

That will be over to you discern and, again to be honest, I don't get that.

But what I do hear is ambient, often beautiful and spare music that exists beyond time as past and present join in a recording studio where these instruments and sounds are given new life for a different audience.

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