Whaia te Maramatanga
Rob Thorne has been working with Taonga Puoro (traditional Maori instruments) for around a decade now – prior to that he has performed solo acoustic-electric material (as Man Alone) and made all manner of noise with band Brickshithouse.
There are no screwdrivers in guitars here on Whaia te Maramatanga – rather a gentle evocation of the lapping tides, the furrows carved out of the wind, the nocturnal stirrings, the whirrings of wind-propelled wooden chimes, the gentle siren-call of cooing voices, hints of bird song too. It all makes for a soothing – though sometimes beautifully alarming, almost wonderfully unsettling – record of ambient soundscapes. It is Thorne’s through-composed actualisation of identity, a journey that goes deep, is sometimes dark, offering moodiness and a brooding beauty.
Thorne’s key compositional ingredient though is space – specifically breathing space, often in fact we hear (almost feel) hot breath in the spaces between the notes, in the shadows within the shapes.
And there’s something in this that conjures the traditional fife band sound – those eerie moments where the silence is punctuated, striking, but always thoughtful.
I’ve said many times before in reviewing Maori language albums that I’m lost when it comes to a translation but lost in the sound of it, swept up and moved by the beauty of the language; translation – ultimately – is irrelevant. And so it is with this album built with traditional Maori instruments, a different kind of voice, the voice of Taonga Puoro.