Since MARRS’ influential late-‘80s hit “Pump Up The Volume,” there have been many dance artists who brought world-music influences to western clubs. A break in “Volume” was built around samples from an Israeli singer named Ofra Haza, and there have been radio and club hits built around everything from aborigines to monks chants to Indian music in recent years. But each of these managed to point up their unique qualities, to great success. Oceania, finally, is nothing that Deep Forest or Enigma or even Art Of Noise haven’t already done.
The culture being utilized here is that of the Maori, native tribes of New Zealand. The project is a collaboration between Jaz Coleman, late of Killing Joke (“‘80s”) and singer Hinewehi Mohi (Hine for short), who is half Maori. I have no reason to doubt the duo’s sincerity in attempting this meld, but the results leave themselves open to criticism. Why are the beats so last-year, and in some cases, last-decade or earlier? Why does the music sound like—I swear—the soundtrack to a science-fiction television program?
Some of the material is supposedly inspired by Hine’s experiences with her daughter, who was born with cerebral palsy—which they’re happy to tell you in the promotional material and liner notes, to the point where it begins to smack of exploitation. Notably, “Hinerakauri” or “Goddess of Music,” is also the daughter’s name. Unfortunately it’s also an Andrew Lloyd Webber-like slice of musical cake-and when I say cake, I mean the mass-produced, Twinkie kind.
None of the words to the songs on the album are in English, but a translation is provided. This is a pity, because human potential movement jargon is what it is in any language. “Cooperation is the key to achieving our goals.” Well, yeah, maybe, but in the words of Johnny Mercer, I could eat alphabet soup and shit better lyrics than that for a song.
This album is at least 10 years too late to be of any use as a novelty, and it’s not strong enough to make it on its own merits. A pleasant but unexciting listen.