Formed in 2010, Āio are a homegrown four-piece formed by (mostly) music students from Whitireia Polytechnic in Wellington. The self titled EP is their debut release, recorded at York St Studios in Auckland.
On first listening, I heard aspects of early Trinity Roots and Kora mixed with an organic blend of male and female vocals. There are heavy roots and soul influences, but this EP has a very earthy Aotearoan style that grounds it as the music sashays between acoustic, jazz, soul, and rock styles and indigenous Maori instruments. The lyrics switch between English and Te Reo, adding further layers to Āio, creating quite a beautiful and original auditory journey.
Opening track ‘Kia mataara‘ features Maori chants and instruments over a sound bed as the music slowly builds up and erupts into ‘Music’. The clear and soulful vocals of Aja Wairere Ropata really carry this EP, and there is strong musicianship throughout from Te Kawa Herangi, Peter Riley and Zane Sorenson-Graham, showcasing a wide range of expertise. ‘Bassment Groove’ has quite a live improvised sound that is more finely tuned in ‘Wai e rere‘ and ‘Journey’.
Āio are one to watch. I look forward to hearing more as they carve out a niche for themselves in New Zealand roots music.