Archives for posts with tag: Tall Dwarfs

Ben Woods is now two albums deep into a singular journey to the heart of “Antipodean Gothic”. His first solo album “PUT” set the scene, but retained something of the recognisable guitar-pop roots of his previous role as wielder of a Gibson Flying-V guitar in bands like Wurld Series etc. His latest journey to slowed-down weird-pop is “Dispeller” and the opening track is “Fame”:

“Fame” is a strange, slow, woozy thing. Reminds me a bit of The Everly Brothers’ “All I have To Do Is Dream” but this dream is an unsettling, disorienting one, in which the dreamer is slowly falling, forever.

“Dispeller” features less guitar than “PUT” – and what guitar there is if often stripped to the minimum – and more piano, and also more sonic musical – and anti-musical – sound treatments assembled, stretched, twisted, distressed, disordered…

As “Fame” indicates there’s melodic pop still at the heart of the warped songs, and many haunting moments among the sonic ruins. Woods is joined on vocals by Charlotte Forrester (WOMB) on two tracks and Lucy Hunter (Opposite Sex, Wet Specimen) on one, adding additional spectral counterpoints to Woods’ soothing croon. The album may take a few plays to re-orientate the listeners into this world, but once settled these songs are things of strange beauty.

There are moments throughout “Dispeller” that remind me of the DIY sonic experimentation of Tall Dwarfs, the damaged pop of Sparklehorse, and the hypnotic minimalism of Spaceman 3. The overwhelming sense here is of classic slow pop music warped and twisted through a kind of Twin Peaks lens; a deeply personal performance beaming from the Black Lodge’s Red Room.

“To other New Zealanders, Christchurch seems to be a desolate, xenophobic, flat city, which in the wake of a series of natural disasters is being sparsely put back together by a bunch of brutal development moguls. It’s also a city with a thriving indie rock scene, unspoiled by commercial interests and held together by bands all drawing from the same small pool of members and venues. Christchurch has a rare grit.” [From the Bandcamp notes to “PUT”]

Alec Bathgate (The Enemy, Toy Love, Tall Dwarfs) has quietly deposited a treasure-trove of music on Bandcamp this year. “Jane & John” is a small but perfectly formed collection of two brief songs that fit together. Here’s “Jane”, written for his former Toy Love band member Jane Walker who died in 2018.

“Jane” and “John” were originally intended as demos, recorded by Bathgate in NZ, but then added some Nashville relish by NZ music fans Matt Swanson and Tony Crow of Lambchop. The resulting songs are beautiful miniature pop gems.

Also worth acquainting yourself with here is Bathgate’s excellent 1996 DIY-psychedelic pop masterpiece “Gold Lamé” (originally a Flying Nun Records CD release) which has had new hi-res transfers from the original master tapes and been newly mastered by the ubiquitous Mikey Young for future (2021) vinyl release and sounds glorious.