Moana: Toru

By GRAHAM REID

(Herald rating: * * * *)

This third album - following Tahi and Rua - is a great stylistic leap for Moana, who here explores a very different style of singing and, with various producers (and co-writer Simon Holloway in places), moves towards a subtle and rewarding ambient feel discreetly coloured by loops and the use of taonga pouro (traditional instruments). Gone are the punchy hip-hop manoeuvres of the earlier Treaty or the thrilling speak-sing Moko from Rua, and in comes the spiritual and sensual moteatea singing style used in Maori folk songs and laments.

Add to that introspective and emotional form the low beats and ambient textures from synths, trickling acoustic guitars and various traditional instruments from Richard Nunns and the late Hirini Melbourne (who wrote the beautiful Te Kohu here) and you have an album that fits seamlessly into the intelligent end of world music/ambient without falling into the vacuousness of new age music.

This is music of great depth and beauty - but will largely go unheard because it is predominantly in te reo, which will stall it at most radio. That's a real shame for a dozen reasons, not the least of which is that this, in its quietness, speaks to us in this place. Sadly you suspect this will find its greatest audience in Europe and the States, where it will be heard as exotic and appreciated for its mature musicality which melds traditional and contemporary styles without compromising either.

The tracks in English - the quiet folk of Calling You which acknowledges the Endeavour-like journey the ancestors made to Aotearoa, the simple love song Speak To Me - seem slightly superficial and conservative in the comparison. The beauty - and there is plenty of it - lies elsewhere on this quite remarkable and intelligently textured album.

Label: Tangata

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