The third full-lengther from Auckland’s Kerretta is the band’s biggest and best. Now this is a group that already shoulders comparisons to Jakob, Mogwai, Isis and – well – just about any other great instrumental-focussed post-rock band you care to think about.
But, like Mountaineater and Jakob, there’s something distinctly Kiwi about the sound of this band. An energy, a determination. You can almost feel and see and hear the travelogues unfolding, a tune like Kawea Tatou Ki Nga Hiwi seeming like the perfect soundtrack to a flyover – aerial survey of the land.
There are moments, in the way this music crunches, that Kerretta deserves comparison to Beastwars. Where Beastwars is song-focussed, all about the grizzled, gnarled vocals Kerretta provides the instrumental version of that sound – a huge, towering intensity. And guitarist David Holmes (producer for Jakob and An Emerald City) knows exactly how to structure that delay-then-attack – it’s a sound he might well have learned from HDU, from work with Jakob too – but clearly so much of it (still) comes from within.
The remarkable mood that’s built and achieved here, the stunning display of controlled virtuosity is clear from album opener, Ossein Trail. It’s an album full of highlights, so perfectly created, and it’s almost breath-taking to hear both how huge this album is and how deeply in control of that sound the players are. This is music coiled ready to strike and when it does it’s never a case of hit and hope – and then away it goes. This trio knows where this music is going, dictates the flow and turn every step of the way.
The Roar, with its pop instincts in the way the rhythm section looks in behind the lead of the guitar, might be a career highlight for almost anyone else, a single towering achievement. Here it’s one of eight mini masterpieces. It’s also imbued with the spirit of teenagers woodshedding, of the young, eager musicians spending every waking hour honing their craft. You almost hear a history of heavy metal in this song – and then of the instrumental guitar albums that followed as offshoot, a trailing wake.
Warnlands continues on from The Roar, the same dedication, the same idea of the guitar lick announcing where the tune might go and then a pummel of bass beneath it, chiselling out the way forward for the tune.
His Streets of Honey, Her Mouth of Gold acts as the album-pivot, the shortest track here, conventional song-length and a huge surge of sound is summoned within that four-minute allocation. Melodies swirl, textures collide, shards of sound fly in almost all directions yet for the fact that the precision of the snare and hi-hat is always the guiding force that binds, that sends the song forward.
Iron Hail charges out of the gate with a devastating riff that then falls away into moods of doom before getting back up to gallop. There’s such enormity in this song.
Sister, Come Home is the penultimate track, yet another reminder that post-rock can unreservedly rock; bull-by-the-horns style. And then to The Last Rivers, a slow build here, purposeful as tinkering percussion creates the mood and eventually a big bass drum stomp ushers in the full swirls of colour from the guitar.
It’s the end of the journey. We’re at the top of the hill. The climb has been awe-inspiring, the view is peerless, the sky so blue. The worlds we’ve travelled through to get here – that rugged coastline of our country evoked, the heritage, the Mana.
There are really only a few bands that manage the feat of being the only thing that matters while you’re listening to them. Kerretta had always hinted at that. But Pirohia is the album where they finally – fully – deliver. You get lost in this. And as it blasts all around you, feeling at times like it’s this music – and only this music that could ever matter – that is propelling you it is full of profound beauty. And no squall of ugliness. Kerretta’s vision of post-rock is the sculpted sound after the rubble’s been cleared. This isn’t that apocalyptic battle but rather the sound of that having passed, the peace in the clearing. And the outlook is astonishing.