Published: Real Groove, October, 2010.
Music Is Choice
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A comprehensive snapshot of the group at the height of their powers.
Tinged with humour, sentimentality and the organic, down to earth feel which has been a hall-mark of all of their music, Trinity Roots’ multi-media release Music Is Choice imparts a heartfelt portrait of a group who’ve understandably become iconic to New Zealand.
Since disbanding in February 2005 and leaving the country at the mercy of a host of less talented and overreaching impersonators, Trinity Roots has remained an oft-referenced but rarely matched presence within New Zealand music. Genuinely original, their deft synthesis of styles and ability to tap into a very real and pervasive part of New Zealand sentimentality has understandably invoked praise and emulation in equal degrees.
With all three members having subsequently embarked on their own projects – Warren Maxwell with Little Bushman, Riki Gooch with Eru Dangerspiel, and Rio Hemopo with various collaborations and intermittent solo projects – the release of Music Is Choice is naturally billed as a memento, but their recent announcement of a reunion tour and, more than likely, another album, make that description pleasantly redundant.
A two-disc affair, Music Is Choice includes a live album recorded over two nights at the Wellington Town Hall and Sarah Hunter’s well-constructed documentary of the same name. There’s also extras from Chris Graham, including his wonderfully shot and conceptualised ‘Little Things’ music video, and the hilarious ‘True, bro’ promo for their first album True.
Always most potent live, the recordings here – culled from a show in August 2004 and their farewell concert on February 2005 – are a prime distillation of a sound which ran (or is that runs?) the gamut of psychedelia, folk, jazz and reggae. Imbued with a sense of occasion and spontaneity, their live shows would often lend themselves to long, drawn out psych-grooves that helped build tension and atmosphere, but were never marked by any of the self-indulgent flights of fancy that would beset a lesser band. It’s evident across the course of this release – ‘Ego’s’ stretched out to an entrancing 10 minutes, ‘Two By Two’ to a glorious 20. Both deeply, hypnotic sonic explorations which form the backbone of the album.
While some people would have caught Sarah Hunter’s documentary at the recent International Film Festival it’s re-release as part of this package is a welcome addition. Drawing on interviews with the band, along with friends, family and music industry peers, Hunter crafts a portrait of the group from their early inception whilst studying jazz in Wellington, right through to their farewell concert in 2005. The interviews are intertwined with photos, footage from early tours and the beautifully shot black and white reels from their farewell concert. It certainly takes a benevolent, fan-centric view of the group, but the wealth of material Hunter draws on, along with the insights gleamed from Maxwell, Hemopo and Gooch provide a thorough picture of the groups development, dynamics and the wider Wellington scene from which they emerged.