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June/July 2006

by Kiran Dass

Te Kū Te Whē: Cross Genre Compositions

by Kiran Dass

Te Kū Te Whē: Cross Genre Compositions

Released in 1994, ‘Te Kū Te Whē’ by Hirini Melbourne and Richard Nunns was an album Rattle Records initially thought would fall under the radar. It ended up being their biggest seller, selling gold, an achievement that might long stand as a milestone for the small Auckland label. Responsible for bringing traditional, pre-European Maori instruments out of museums and into the CD players of music lovers, ‘Te Kū Te Whē’ also features Hirini Melbourne’s lilting waiata.

Ever interested in re-contextualising music and encouraging cross-genre experimentation, Rattle is soon to release a remix album of ‘Te Whaiao – Te Kū Te Whē Remixed’, with artists working in downbeat and electronica territories putting a new spin on Melbourne and Nunns’ material. Sola Rosa, Pitch Black, Epsilon Blue and Rhian Sheehan are among the artists who have contributed. The project was the brainchild of Jacquie Baker, partner of Dubious Bros’ Chris Macro while she was doing a spot of work for Rattle.

hirini melbourne richard nunns te kū te whē“Between Chris, Jacquie and myself, we worked out what artists we thought would be appropriate to contribute,” explains Tim Gummer, Rattle Records’ label manager. “It was a matter of trying to figure out who would be right for each track.”

Each artist cunningly comes with a ready-made audience, the perfect springboard to unleash the music of ‘Te Kū Te Whē’ on a bigger, more mainstream audience. Gummer says he chose the artists because he felt downbeat music would work respectfully with the original music, and it’s the kind of music he gravitates to.

“There is a real breadth of sonic textures that aren’t in the original mixes, bringing in everything from full-scale electronica to dub. It really adds another dimension but doesn’t change the value of the original track,” he says.

A year and a half in the making, the remixes are varied but all retain a deep, sparse and haunting atmosphere. Completely accessible yet interesting ‘Te Whaiao – Te Kū Te Whē Remixed’ is the kind of album which rewards repeated listening.

SJD brings his Kraut rock-edged soul to Raukatauri, the slightly dark leanings of Pitch Black work beautifully with Te Po and Warren Maxwell‘s simple, minimal style compliments Wai. Real standouts are James Duncan‘s blissfully prog, warm rendering of Purerehua and Chris Macro’s deep, slow-burning and doomy Takapau Horonui and Hau.

Gummer says the only real brief the artists were given was to keep the music downbeat and to be respectful with Melbourne’s voice, He also says it is a delight to allow musicians to work with a style of music they mightn’t otherwise get a chance to explore.

“Some of the artists have said, ‘You really pushed me, but I’m grateful’, and that’s fantastic,” he enthuses.