Toitu Te Puoro
Alistair Fraser has been a prolific composer and collaborator across the last decade – working as part of projects or with bands including The Whoolshed Sessions, STROMA, NZ String Quartet, Trinity Roots and the NZSO. Raised in Dunedin – and surrounding himself with conventional band instruments – Fraser then moved to Wellington to study jazz guitar and since the lat 1990s has immersed himself in the world of Taonga Puoro – researching and making instruments, performing across a wide range of musical genres – adding his spellbinding soundscape ideas to movie score, dance and classical recitals and across jazz, ambient and improvised music.
His recent duo album with Phil Boniface was a higlight among local releases in 2017/18 and late last year he released this, his fifth solo album. Truly a “solo” album – save for the brave words and beautifuly vocal delivery of Ariana Tikao on the track Hikoi. Apart from that it’s Fraser striking, plucking, blowing, conjuring, calling, summoning. He hits at wood, breathes life in through bone and shell, and allows sound to circle and pulse from chimes and strings and things found and inherited. It’s a solo album, yes, but in this deep, reverential nod to the traditions handed down from Hirini Melbourne, Richard Nunns and others we feel – if not directly hear – other voices. Ghosts. Spirits. Enlivened once more.
The music evokes birdsong and bushwalk – it is soundscape and pathway, it is aural journey and spiritual awakening.
It’s history filtered through the present and it is a rich tapestry of sound.
If it’s your introduction to Taonga Puoro then you are very much in safe hands. If you know the sound already and understand the structure of compositions – from simple tapping beats through to musical chants that are rhythmic rather than melodic – you will find much here to enjoy; let it fall over you. This music. This world. These heartbeats.