Listening Post: Fis & Rob Thorne/The Unthanks/Chk-Chk-Chk/Juan Molina

Clear Stones is the first meeting between Maori sound artist Rob Thorne and Berlin-based electronic composer Fis
Gabriele Daccardi

Clear Stones is the first meeting between Maori sound artist Rob Thorne and Berlin-based electronic composer Fis

Fis & Rob Thorne

Clear Stones

(Subtext)

★★★★

As much as our love of music is often an emotional response to what we are hearing, which more often that not translates to what we feel comfortable with, music, as a whole would never evolve without experimentation. Rob Thorne, much like Richard Nunns, is a pioneer and explorer in the sound possibilities of taonga puoro - traditional Maori instruments.  And while his debut album Whaia te Maramatanga was a spacious and open work where he solo-ed freely within it's depths, Clear Stones is more complex and challenging.  Another collaboration, this time with Berlin-based Kiwi musician Fis, it's at times dense and industrial sounding where instruments such as the putatara, tumutumu kohatu and putorino are immersed in deep layers of static, electronic curtains of sound that give an eerie setting where the ancient and modern collide in conversation. The seven-minute plus Front Ear is a classic example of this synthesis with subliminal putorino and purerehua. It's immersed in shuddering walls of electronica - one channelling the past, the other the future - until they merge and blend with stone percussion into a haunting synergetic mix that continues to reverberate with rehu toroa, a long flute made from the wing bone of an albatross.

Mike Alexander

The Unthanks

Diversions Volume 4

(Southbound)

★★★1/2

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There's something about this folk album by The Unthanks, led by Rachel Unthank, that is both pertinent, beguiling and charming.  The group has previously released albums which interpreted the works of Robert Wyatt and Antony & The Johnsons, re-envisioned their own songs with the help of the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band and the soundtrack to the documentary Songs From The Shipyard, but none compare to this delightful volume, subtitled The Songs And Poems of Molly Drake. If the name is slightly familiar, it's because she's the mother of the celebrated and enormous talent that was Nick Drake. And much like her son, her poetry and songs are dark, bittersweet and full of rich imagery, highlighted by the gut-wrenching and rueful I Remember. What a discovery.

Mike Alexander

Chk-Chk-Chk

Shake the Shudder

(Warp)

★★★★

The Sacramento dance-punkers continue to uphold a strong marriage of indie and electronic. Chk-chk-chk perform an accessible brand of upbeat dance rock in the vein of Hot Chip and LCD Soundsystem. This is ideal festival music, the kind of tunes you wouldn't need to be familiar with to enjoy in a live context. Shake the Shudder is no different and drips with Prince and a sweaty 80s' disco club. Underpinned by stunning bass grooves throughout, tracks such as Dancing is the Best Revenge and NRGQ pulsate with infectious electronic hooks. Here's hoping for some kind of New Zealand appearance sometime soon. 

Hugh Collins

Juan Molina

Halo

(Southbound)

★★★1/2

The cover image of a bone with eyes where other bones might interconnect is rather disconcerting at first sight. Don't allow that to determine whether you explore the inner workings of Argentina folk-tronica experimentalist Molina's seventh album. Much like her previous work, it's a subdued mix of hypnotic rhythms and her eerily whispered ghost of a voice that doubles as a layered choir on songs such as Sin Dones. Deerhoof's John Dietrich appears on three tracks - In The Lassa, where his clipped guitar notes add to the song's ever-changing landscape, Cosoc and A00 B01. Molina though is the muse of her own bemusings which can be seductive, dreamy and haunted turns while remaining true to an artist who isn't bound by conventional norms.  

Mike Alexander

 - Sunday Star Times

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