TANIA GIANNOULI, ROB THORNE, and STEVE GARDEN in a stormy, archaic sound world imbued with modern sensibilities.
The third album from pianist, composer, and improviser Tania Giannouli to be released by the world’s southern-most new music label, Rattle Records (from the distant shores of New Zealand), following "Forest Stories", her 2012 collaboration with the Portuguese musician Paulo Chagas, and "Transcendence" in 2015 with the Tania Giannouli Ensemble, REWA is another special album from an artists who is constantly expanding her aesthetic limits and looking forward to new sound worlds.
Of course, on Rewa, she is not alone. Ngā taonga pūoro player Rob Thorne and Steve Garden (boss of Rattle) are her close collaborators, providing magical sounds and electronically enhancing the raw improvised material respectively.
Rewa offers a sound world that one doesn’t hear every day. It has a distinct style that sets it apart even within the broad range musical categories to which one might be tempted to say it belongs — world, jazz, free-improv, etc. It’s a style that reaches back to antiquity to produce something fresh and unique in modern terms. Rewa isn’t an attempt to revive an older form of world music, but to search for something that is at once familiar but entirely new.
In this sense, Garden's electronic manipulation of the original improvisations has produced a sort of “melting of the ages” that is entirely convincing as contemporary music. Ngā taonga pūoro (the traditional instruments of Māori) are primitive, autonomous, self-sufficient, and of course microtonal, and they bring unique and often-powerful characteristics that give the impression of emanating from the landscape and history of Aotearoa (New Zealand).
The piano, sometimes prepared, sounds with various resonances of balsa, metal, hammers, and vibrations — but not always as we might expect. Giannouli’s playing is impressive, with sudden and spasmodic clusters, tempo changes, and new interventions in a continuous communication between a natural search for structure and a complete abandonment to spontaneity.
The extravagant sound of ngā taonga pūoro is of course all the money in pieces like "Prisma" for example, but in the final 15 minutes in "Te tangi a mutu" we go on a sound trip to an unknown and uncharted country of constant surprise and mystery.