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Verdict: "Auckland ensemble's overdue first CD brings an engaging slice of Kiwi contemporary."

Ideally, it might take 20 CDs to do full justice to the contemporary music that Auckland's Karlheinz Company has given us over the last 34 years. In the meantime, a long-overdue single album, Ritual Auras, reminds one of the group's contribution to the local and national music scene.

The focus here is on New Zealand composers, and John Elmsly's Ritual Auras provides a gripping launch, vibrant and gutsy, a score of many colours, contoured with an almost sculptural finesse.

The album closes with the infectious wildness of John Rimmer's Pukeko. Soprano Susan Boland does a virtuoso turn, catching the terrors and timidity of Ian Wedde's "poor ludicrous fowl"; around her, a seasoned quintet plays fast and lucid with a florid score.


Alas, this 1989 recording of a good live performance does stand out among the more recent studio sessions, produced principally by the tireless Wayne Laird.

Concerto for Six is not prime David Farquhar; it's a piece that sacrifices joie de vivre for neatness, with fussy detailing and a fatal lack of momentum.

Eve de Castro-Robinson does much more in her Knife Apple Sheer Brush with one performer, Mette Leroy, who sings, speaks and plays her way through these quirky Len Lye settings for an adventurous flautist.

Samuel Holloway wrote his En Abyme for Leroy, a piece with the rare ability almost to hypnotise you into its sound-world.

Don't fret over Holloway's intellectual premise, citing art historian Francis Pound and painter Gordon Walters; in the final count it is Leroy's luscious tapering sonorities and flares of gnarly energy that do the communicating.

Two pieces look east. Chen-Feng Lin's Infusing Zen wafts impressionistically around Helen Webby's harp. The Mandarin sensitivity in Lin's writing is echoed in a short spoken introduction - a beautifully modulated reading of a Tang dynasty poem.

Jack Body's Interior brings the China of today into the concert hall. Here the Karlheinz players flutter and skirmish around three field recordings that Body made during a trip to China. The only problem is that you may end up wanting a recording of these exhilarating dances and songs by themselves.