Rattle Records describes this new release as a tribute to Richard Nunns, whose taonga puoro have graced the music of composers and artists from Hirini Melbourne and Gillian Whitehead to Moana and her Moahunters.

These 11 improvisations, recorded in 2013, with Nunns in the company of David Long and Natalia Mann, will be his last due to health issues, bravely battled for well over a decade.

Utterance offers the rare privilege of stepping into 40 minutes of enchanted sound worlds as if one were promenading a long, mysterious corridor and tasting the aural delights that lay behind each door.

Inevitably, Nunns' ancient sonorities dominate, from the opaque liquidity of pounamu percussion to the ominous whir of bull-roarer. On one track, Celestial Dog, the pukaea trumpets out of massive plucked walls, thrillingly caught in Bob Bickerton's Nelson studios.


Against Nunns' formidable kete of instruments, Natalia Mann focuses on harp, prepared harp and zither, the sounds of which twine intriguingly with David Long's banjo. Long's career is a particularly distinguished one, extending back to the early 1990s when he played alongside Don McGlashan in the Mutton Birds.

A successful career in film and television has produced soundtracks for everything from Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings to Jess Feast's more recent documentary Gardening with Soul, 90 minutes in the Island Bay garden of 90-year-old Sister Loyola Galvin. The versatile Long has also written on the classical side, including commissions for the New Zealand String Quartet and Stroma.

On Utterance, you'll be transfixed by the chameleon-like colours of his banjo, although also at hand are a theremin, bowed guitar and what Long describes as "assorted paraphernalia". This album, wrapped up in Rattle's usual classy packaging, makes for compulsive listening and, I suspect, re-listening.

What: Utterance (Rattle, through Ode Records)
Rating: 5/5
Verdict: Kiwi trio takes us down a corridor of enchantments