Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Coffee Bar Kid Special - Wellington's Own Rattle Records

Celebrating 21 years as NZ’s foremost art-music label with this superb 90-minute compilation album - 'Born into this' . These 24 carefully selected pieces showcase the work of Rattle's excellent composers and performers, serving as an attractive introduction to an ever-increasing range of Rattle music.   Click to the Rattle website

Established in 1991, Rattle continues to be the pre-eminent art-music label in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Our aim is to provide an inspirational platform for the extraordinary diversity and quality of musics unique to this country, and to bring this rich sound-scape to the wider world. Our carefully selected catalogue is generously dotted with award-winning and highly acclaimed albums, with virtually every Rattle release garnering praise from critics and music-lovers the world over.
Rattle's producers seek to draw together a sound that is of the Pacific, one that embodies the heritage of its indigenous peoples and those who have followed. Not limited to classical, world or jazz, Rattle presents artists from a variety of disciplines with music that transcends boundaries of time and place. This is new music for open ears, intended to engage the head as well as the heart.
While the Rattle catalogue is relatively small (until recently averaging one release a year), our albums have enjoyed wide critical acclaim, with seven Best Album awards, another seven Finalists, and a Gold Disc for Te Ku Te Whe. This achievement testifies to our commitment to support composers and performers of the highest calibre, and to produce albums of exceptional quality with lasting cultural significance.
Tim Gummer, Keith Hill and Steve Garden shared a vision for a music label that would champion a diverse but carefully chosen range of contemporary instrumental music - compositions and performances unfettered by commercial pressures or constraints. Tim and Steve operated a small recording studio in downtown Auckland where Gitbox Rebellion and From Scratch were recording. Inspired by the European modern music label ECM (as well as New Zealand's own maverick label, Flying Nun), Tim, Keith and Steve sought to create an empathetic framework for music that wasn’t, at that time, adequately supported by the record labels of the day.

Encouraged by the critical success of Pesky Digits and Songs For Heroes, we recorded with a number of composers and performers for our next release, the compilation CD, Different Tracks. This album set the tone and direction for the label, and for many of the projects that were to follow. The first was Te Ku Te Whe, the seminal debut of Richard Nunns and Hirini Melbourne. Few would have predicted the impact and lasting influence of this groundbreaking work, or the major role it would play in the revival of te taonga puoro (the traditional instruments of Maori). Two weeks were set aside to record the album, but by lunch on day two, Te Ku Te Whe was in the can. It remains Rattle’s biggest selling release to date.
Recorded only a few weeks before Hirini’s death in January 2003, Te Hekenga-a-rangi wasn’t a follow up to Te Ku Te Whe so much as a broadening of its themes and concepts, this time emphasising the feminine dimension of taonga puoro. To this end, Melbourne and Nunns were joined by Aroha Yates-Smith, and the resulting work (which includes a bonus DVD directed by Keith Hill) is one of Rattle’s most emotionally affecting albums.
In 2005, Rattle approached a selection of New Zealand’s finest remix artists to reinterpret Te Ku Te Whe, in part to go some way towards realising Hirini’s hope that taonga puoro would be more widely integrated into the fabric of the cultural landscape of Aoteoroa. Awarded Best Maori Album at the 2007 NZ Music Awards, Te Whaiao is a successful fusion of ancient and contemporary voices and influences.
Rattle have released a number of albums featuring Richard Nunns, each situating te taonga puoro in an increasingly broad range of contexts, from Gillian Whitehead’s Ipu, to improvisational collaborations with Judy Bailey and Steve Garden (Tuhonohono), the Chris Mason-Battley Group (Two Tides), Dave Lisik (The Curse of the Queen’s Diamond, Ancient Astronaut Theory, Journey/Hikoi), American pianist Marilyn Crispell and saxophonist Jeff Henderson (This Appearing World), Whirimako Black (Te More), and most recently as a member of the group Nga Tae.
The inclusion of Matre’s Dance on Different Tracks was the beginning of another of Rattle’s most enduring and successful collaborative threads. It not only led to the recording of Dan Poynton’s You Hit Him He Cry Out (Best Classical Album, 1997) and Michael Houstoun's Inland (Best Classical Album, 2007), but to a series of landmark albums by one of New Zealand’s brightest stars, John Psathas. John’s acclaimed debut, Rhythm Spike (Best Classical Album, 1999), was followed in 2006 by the monumental View From Olympus (Best Classical Album, 2006). The album, consisting of three concerti for orchestra and soloists, was the most ambitious and expensive classical recording ever undertaken in New Zealand. Featuring exceptional performances from pianist Michael Houstoun, Portuguese percussionist Pedro Carneiro, American contemporary jazz saxophonist Joshua Redman, Wellington-based drummer Lance Philip, and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra conducted by Marc Taddei, View From Olympus was a significant critical and popular success. Complete with an accompanying DVD (directed by Keith Hill), it was one of the top-ten selling classical albums for more than a year, holding the number one spot in the classical music chart for an unprecedented six consecutive months.
Ukiyo (Best Classical Album Finalist, 2010) is a very contemporary collaboration between John Psathas and Pedro Carneiro. Comprised of a set of contemplative compositions for vibes, marimba, assorted percussion, loops, sequences, and large chamber ensemble (horns, wind, strings, piano, bass and drums), the album reflects a broadening of John’s palette. Helix (Best Classical Album Finalist, 2011) goes even further, although this time within the more familiar context of traditional chamber settings - piano trio, string quartet, and solo piano. NZTrio and the New Zealand String Quartet deliver powerhouse performances on Helix and Kartsigar respectively, and Donald Nicolson’s fiercely concentrated piano playing on Songs For Simon, Sleeper and the beautiful Waiting : Still is outstanding.
NZTrio have released two very fine albums with Rattle, bright tide moving between (Best Classical Album Finalist, 2007) and Flourishes (Best Classical Album Finalist, 2010). Although pipped at the post by Michael Houstoun's Inland as Best Classical Album of 2007, bright tide moving between is one of Rattle's finest achievements. The trio are at their most expressive, and the album is widely regarded as one of the best sounding piano trio albums.
More recently, we introduced the Rattle Jazz Series. While still in its infancy, the releases to date reflect Rattle’s intention to pursue an eclectic range of strong, performance-based recordings, and to build a catalogue of significant New Zealand jazz. The series kicked off in November 2009 with Irony by the FSH Trio, which was followed in 2010 by Roger Manins' exceptional Trio and Reuben Bradley's award-winning Resonator (Best Jazz Album at the 2011 Tui Jazz Awards). In 2011, six new titles were added to the Jazz Series: Oxide (Samsom Nacey Haines), The Curse of the Queen's Diamond (Dave Lisik, featuring Richard Nunns), Chatter (Amy Rempel), Seven (Tim Hopkins, Best Jazz Album Finalist at the 2012 Jazz Awards), Zoo (Tom Dennison), and Storm in a Teacup (Campbell Rae Dyne). The Troubles (by The Troubles, featuring John Rae and Lucien Johnson) and Sneaking Out After Midnight by Mark Lockett (featuring New York hot shots, Joel Frahm on sax and Orlando Le Fleming on bass) were released in April 2012, and other Jazz Series releases planned for this year include Walkabout by Sydney-based big band, The Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra (featuring the legendary Bob Sheppard on saxophone, trumpet maestro Alex Sipiagin, and compositions by Dave Lisik), Stuck in a Moment: The U2 Project (again featuring Sheppard and Sipiagin, with Matt Wilson and Jeremy Allen as the top-class rhythm section), and Origin of the Species by The Dave Lisik Big Band.
The launch of the Jazz Series signalled a new vision for Rattle, which saw the label's output lift from barely one release a year to a staggering 30 new albums in two years, all strong examples of Rattle’s continuing and deepening ethos to challenge, re-define, and transcend boundaries. In July 2011, Rattle established the sub-label Independent Artists, a label set up to provide a platform for the best of the many self-produced and self-funded projects that, for various reasons, are unable to be included in the Rattle catalogue. The inaugural release was Delayed Reaction (Best Jazz Album Finalist at the 2012 Jazz Awards), Phil Broadhurst's fine homage to the great genius of French jazz, Michel Petrucciani. The self-titled Nga Tae (featuring Horomona Horo, Waimihi Hotere, Paddy Free and Richard Nunns) was released on Independent Artists in March 2012.
Tim Gummer and Keith Hill resigned as directors of Rattle in late 2009 and early 2011 respectively, each to pursue their own creative endeavours (Tim as a graphic designer, and Keith as a writer and filmmaker). Steve Garden continues to take Rattle forward, drawing from the best of an ever-increasing pool of emerging and established talent, and broadening the international reach of the label while continuing to develop its profile and influence within New Zealand.
A striking example of this new emerging talent can be heard in the work of the prolific Dave Lisik. Dave’s first release with Rattle was The Curse of the Queen's Diamond (April 2011), and while the album was released as part of the Jazz Series, it has just as much in common with contemporary ‘new music’. After recording and producing Amy Rempel’s Chatter, Dave released Donated by Cantor Fitzgerald. Written to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the USA in September 2001, this 60-minute single composition defies easy categorisation. Like all of Dave's work, it is a rigorous and demanding work that will nevertheless reward the committed listener.
Ancient Astronaut Theory (September, 2011) takes Richard Nunns and his vast array of taonga puoro into new and uncharted territory. Consistently inventive and wholly musical, Dave’s contribution to the ongoing evolution of taonga puoro is a thoroughly engrossing and potentially influential re-imagining of an ancient sonic world. Ancient Astronaut Theory is essentially an electro-acoustic work, as is Dave’s collaboration with the great reed player, Colin Hemmingsen. On Fate and the Processor, Colin and Dave layer soprano and tenor saxophones, clarinets and bassoon to create a selection of rich and inventive musical tapestries. The resulting album, like much of Dave’s new-music writing, eschews conventional signposts. Instead, it invites the listener to actively explore the remarkable and unpredictable sound worlds it presents.
Poignant, emotional, dramatic, delicate, always surprising, the qualities in Fate and the Processor are just as evident in Dave’s electro-acoustic collaborations with New York-based new-music and electro-acoustic composer, Jorge Sosa. Invenium Viam (featuring cellist Inbal Megiddo) and Enceladus (on which Dave takes center stage on trumpet) are powerful works, moving effortlessly from moments of beauty and grace to sonic roller-coaster rides full of intensity and uncompromisingly muscular invention. Invenium Viam has a distinct new-music patina about it, while Enceladus has more of a jazz flavour.
One of Dave's finest works came right at the end of 2011. Like Donated by Cantor Fitzgerald, Rail 16 is a single 49-minute piece written for an improvising ensemble of piano (Jian Liu), cello (Inbal Megiddo), violin (Martin Riseley), saxophones (Tim Hopkins and Adam Page), double bass (Paul Altomari), percussion (Lance Philip), and electronics (Dave Lisik).
If all of this wasn’t enough, Dave also found the time to produce two fine classical albums. Stradivariazioni, featuring Martin Riseley (violin) and Diedre Irons (piano), comprises an engaging program by Beethoven (Sonata Opus 96), Ravel (Tzigane), Schubert (Fantasy in C), and the excellent title piece by NZSM Senior Lecturer, Stephan Prock. Stradivariazioni was followed by the first of two volumes of Beethoven Cello Works by Inbal Megiddo (cello) and Jian Liu (piano). This is an album of great concentration and passion performed by two exceptional musicians. The second volume is planned for release in late 2012.
The double album, Hikoi / Journey, is another project that owes much to the production skills of Dave Lisik. Hikoi is a selection of musical conversations between Richard Nunns and Paul Dyne, two friends who have worked together over a span of 40-years. This long-standing musical relationship informs the improvisations from which the tracks on the album were realised. For Journey, Dave took the same raw material and composed pieces for an improvising ensemble that includes Amy Rempel on piano, Tim Hopkins on saxophone, and Dave and Jorge Sosa on electronics. The two albums make for a fascinating comparison between the relative austerity of the ‘source material’ on Hikoi, and the more expansive, layered compositions on Journey.
In September 2011, Jonathan Besser followed his 2006 Rattle release, Turn, with the mesmerising Campursari, an album that takes its title from an Indonesian musical term used to describe music that combines gamelan and Western instruments. While Jonathan has often worked with gamelan, this is the first time he has written specifically for the instruments, rather than using them (as has been his practice over the years) in improvisational settings. Commenting on Dave Lisik's The Curse of the Queen's Diamond, William Dart described it as 'the perfect vindication of Rattle’s philosophy that they are not interested in musical barriers'. The same can be said about Campursari, an enigmatic but wholly approachable album that casts its tranquil and medative spell upon the willing listener.
Another superb addition to the Rattle catalogue in 2011 was Who's Most Lost? by Arcades (Dugal McKinnon and David Prior). Trained as composers and having played in bands, David and Dugal are inquisitive, sonically omnivorous musical artists fond of crossing borders between music and sound art. The album is an artfully composed and produced set of songs inspired by David and Dugal's ongoing infatuation with pop music, each track reflecting the duo's richly subversive pop sensibility. Picked as one of William Dart's standout albums of 2011, Who's Most Lost? may seem like an unusual choice for Rattle, but it is an exceptional work by any standard, and one that repositions the Rattle goal-posts in a fresh and welcome way. Needlesstosay, we're very proud of it.
The ancient tonalities of taonga pūoro find themselves in yet another challenging contemporary setting on This Appearing World. Marilyn Crispell and Jeff Henderson weave a captivating array of sonic textures and nuances around the evocative sounds of Richard Nunns, all of it captured on video by Keith Hill and beautifully presented on a bonus DVD. Another recent release with a DVD featuring a Keith Hill film (In Concert) is Making Baby Float by Norman Meehan, Bill Manhire and Hannah Griffin. An excellent follow-up to their earlier Buddhist Rain (2010), Making Baby Float is proving to be one of our most popular releases, with sales almost eclipsing our runaway best-seller for 2011, Natalia Mann's beautiful debut, Pasif.Ist. Ex-pat Natalia currently lives and works in Turkey with her percussionist husband and musical partner, Izzet Kizil. We hope to bring you more from these extremely gifted musicians in the very near future.
Also in 2011, Whirimako Black and Richard Nunns teamed up to create the very special Te More, an evocative and intimate set of pieces drawn from the moteatea tradition. The restraint and austerity of Te More situates it closely to Te Ku Te Whe. It is a work that connects the oldest and most revered traditions of waiata to the contemplative concentration of 21st century art music. We predict that Te More will be a much loved favourite of those with an ear for this unique and beautiful music. In a year of strong and compelling albums, Te More is one of Rattle's finest releases in 2011.
With projects by Stuart Grenbaum and NZTrio, Michael Houstoun, John Elmsly, Pedro Carneiro, Lucien Johnson, The Didactic Glass New-Music Ensemble, David Downes, Krotala, Dave Lisik and The Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra all pegged for 2012, the future for Rattle has never looked brighter.

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