Te Vaka: Havili (Spirit of Play/Triton)

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Te Vaka: Taku uo pele
Te Vaka: Havili (Spirit of Play/Triton)

Te Vaka have refined and defined a particular kind of pan-Pacific pop with its roots in tradition but driven by ringing folk-rock guitars as much as percussion, and on this melody-stacked album writer-singer Opetaia Foa'i and band seem to have hit a new peak.

It is almost as if their relocation from New Zealand to Australia has pulled them back to what they did best, but also that they have been reinvigorated by their new environment (which accounts for the didgeridoo on Luga ma lalo).

With log drums alongside a standard drum kit, electric guitars beside acoustic, and children's voices as well as hefty male chanting, these 13 tracks -- recorded in just three weeks in Australia and Auckland -- have a vibrancy and freshness which leaps off the disc.

Logo te pate has urgency and a terrific chorus, Moemiti delivers with a slightly off-beat funk edge, the scene setting instrumental Tuamalo sounds like it was recorded right on a Pacific beach before the rains came, and Lovely World is gentle folk with soulful singing by Olivia Foa'i and an arrangement which allows for cello, violin and cannoning drums.

Tamaiti uma -- with the children's voices behind Opetaia's yearning vocals - manages to avoid the tweeness which the sound of little kids can often dictate.

Punctuated by percussion interludes and ending with the reflective Kofu o lakau, this album (their seventh?) finds Te Vaka at a musical peak and Opetaia's universal concerns -- positivity and hope, the loss of friends, the gift of family -- make this a heartfelt album on every level.

Summer always seems at hand when Te Vaka are around.

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