Published Aug 31, 2015Traditional instruments carry with them a special kind of expectation, and sometimes it's very easy to slip into judgement based on that expectation. In the case of Mella Mella's Mystery and Joy, the listener may lay back expecting to be comfortably transported into the gentle yet vibrant traditions of the Shona community and leave it at that. That's when things get tricky.
Rainer Wiens' tendencies to push things into the realm of the new have applied themselves to the world of groove and, as the tracks progress, one is immediately aware that this music is NOT traditional Afrikan music. The dancing layers and cross rhythms of the plucked tines of the kalimbas (played by Wiens and Thom Gossage), occasionally shaken by the buzzing of the threaded metal rings, radically expand a language that was hinted at by minimalist composer Steve Reich.
Where Mystery and Joy departs from that seminal asceticism is how the music flowers and contracts with both clarity and funk, and treads the ground of highly advanced jazz polyrhythms as well. This is a remarkable work from one of Canada's unsung heroes of new music. (Rainer Wiens)