New Zealand label RATTLE mainly publishes contemporary music by local (New Zealand) artists, but some of their albums feature interesting collaborations from artists from the wider world. One such collaboration is Rewa, a record featuring Greek pianist Tani Giannouli and New Zealand 'taonga puoro' exponent, Rob Thorne, a musician renowned for his work using traditional Maori instruments (flutes, trumpets, drums, and other such instruments made from shells, wood, and stone). The third member of the collaboration is the founder of Rattle, musician and recording engineer, Steve Garden, who imbued Giannouli and Thorne's improvisations with delicate, almost unnoticeable sonic additions and manipulations.
But front and centre is Tania Giannouli and Rob Thorne. The music they made together came of two-days of improvisation that explored from cultural similarities and differences of both musicians. This album is not only a musical confrontation of two distinct traditions, but also a fascinating attempt to find new ways to approach interactive music-making within the context of diametrically opposed traditions.
However, the implicit limitations of working with centuries-old traditions didn't stand in the way of these two musicians creating an album of extremely modern music. While the division of the material into individual pieces is, on the one hand, quite conventional, the tracks combine into a coherent narrative that often smoothly transitions from one piece to another. This narrative arc is usually minimalistic, rarely dynamic, and often reminiscent of European jazz, particularly in the brief piano interludes, but the final track, Te Tangi A Mutu, makes a great impression. Lasting over fifteen minutes, it is the quintessence of the entire album. Emotional, moving, and with surprising twists and turns, the piece suggests movements in time and space to distant ages and territories.
Rewa perfectly combines the elements of exoticism, tradition, and modernity. An extremely original, unusual, fascinating journey.