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Tom Knowles - Album Review: Atarangi - Morning Sky

28 Jun 2023 // A review by Ben Ruegg

Tom Knowles latest release Atarangi - Morning Sky is a must listen. Like, close this page now, go listen to the album, and then come back and read this. Go now.

*32 Minutes Later*

You're welcome.

Before we dive in, let us learn a bit about Tom.

Tom Knowles is an all ages, multi-instrumentalist, actor and singer- songwriter from Aotearoa, more recently blending his unique style of reggae with elements of pop and rock to create a sound that is both captivating and authentic. Epic layers of harmony, walls of sound, silky smooth baselines, smokey vocals catchy ear worm hooks and plush percussion will have you bopping, moving and grooving.

He has featured in numerous films and television shows, and he has performed at some of the world's most exciting venues and festivals, including the Darwin Arts Festival, the San Diego Fringe festival, with an Orchestra at Covent Garden In London, he has toured to Mexico, and was part of the headlining act for the Big Gay Out, NZ Cabaret Festival and the CubaDupa festivals in New Zealand.

Knowles has also received critical acclaim for his work, with reviewers praising his ability to craft thoughtful and emotionally resonant songs that connect with audiences of all ages and highlight what it is to be human.

This album has been mentioned as 'a musical extravaganza', and I would agree with this. Having read about its inception as a musical. Tom's experience in musical theatre is clear and evident in this body of work at over 20 songs long.

This latest album, Atarangi - Morning Sky, shows not only his understanding of musicals, but also his understanding of pop sensibility. With the opening track Breath of Life (which has a great video) he brings out a lot of great ideas. For example, the Kazoo doesn't go un-noticed, along with the opening lines of our National Anthem in Te Reo. Then, moving into My People shows two different sides and different soundscapes. The instrumentation is clear and in the style of reggae, yet throughout the album there are brushstrokes of others influences, like Smashmouth in the later of the two tracks mentioned. But also some West Coast Hip-Hop flavours subtly lingering in Rangi and Papa. This demonstrates the sheer craftsmanship of an artist who knows their vision as both an artist but also in regards to developing a narrative for an album.

Early in the album are a group of tracks like Rongo and Ruamoko which are like theme based around Maori Gods. Each one of these is short and sweet and still packs a bunch with just the atmosphere created with each. Ruamoko has big heavy sound that suits the Maori god of earthquakes, volcanoes and seasons. Again, the songwriting is clever and distinguished. As you work through the album, you can visualise how this would be a stage show, musical and entertaining theatre. Like on the track, When I Grow Up (feat. Carrie Green), you can absolutely visualise the two characters on stage, amongst a set, rapping back and forth. It's awesome.

Atarangi (Morning Sky) is a beautiful track that builds into lush vocals during the later part of the song. Beautiful chord changes, feeling and instrumentation. The whole album sounds fantastic with excellent musicianship, understanding of dynamics, lyrics, performance and overall recording. On a great set of speakers this album sounds full and has enough dynamics to allow it to breathe. And holding it together is the interwoven thread of the story that explores his own whakapapa and culture. And he has honestly put his heart and soul into every element. Closing the album off with Morning Dawning (feat. Thomas Isbister) really proves that. The ideas and images are truly fleshed out in the music.

I would go as far as saying this has been one of the most enjoyable albums to listen to in years. While a lot of artists nowadays can easily get focused on singles, Tom Knowles has given his heart to creating an 'album.'

Don't wait. Go listen now, if you didn't read my request for you to do it at the beginning!

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )
 

About Tom Knowles

Tom Knowles is an all ages, multi instrumentalist, actor and singer- songwriter from Aotearoa, more recently blending his unique style of reggae with elements of pop and rock to create a sound that is both captivating and authentic. Epic layers of harmony, walls of sound, silky smooth baselines, smokey vocals catchy ear worm hooks and plush percussion will have you bopping, moving and grooving.

He has featured in numerous films and television shows, and he has performed at some of the world's most exciting venues and festivals, including the Darwin Arts Festival, the San Diego Fringe festival, with an Orchestra at Covent Garden In London, he has toured to Mexico, and was part of the headlining act for the Big Gay Out, NZ Cabaret Festival and the Cubadupa festivals in New Zealand.

Knowles has also received critical acclaim for his work, with reviewers praising his ability to craft thoughtful and emotionally resonant songs that connect with audiences of all ages and highlight what it is to be human.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Tom Knowles

Releases

Atarangi: Morning Sky
Year: 2023
Type: Album

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