REVIEW: DIMMER – Degrees Of Existence

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Reviewed for FasterLouder

Shayne Carter is one of those musicians who has an unbroken run of albums, not a dud or misstep among them. From his formative days in Dunedin punk bands Bored Games and Double Happys, through the golden years of Straitjacket Fits and more recently as Dimmer. Now onto his fourth album under that name he has produced an exceptional collection of songs that somehow acknowledge his past yet are still defiantly fall into the category of bold and imaginative music.

Early criticism of Dimmer was that Carter was retreating from the legacy of his former band and exploring computer composition, loops and a more soul/less indie approach.To others he was merely continuing to dress his angular and melodically rich songs in different clothes as the songwriting remained intelligent, sensitive and at times sneering.

Degrees Of Existence is built on the strongest and most consistent lineup of the band and with regular live shows they have become taut and economical with their approach and delivery. Listening to the album it is clear that worked wonders in the studio, such is the flow and ‘in the zone’ feel of the music.

First singles Cold Water and Degrees of Existence are both prime Carter compositions with Kelly Stevens’ bass line churning out a menacing groove through the title track and Carter’s snaking atmospheric guitar lines weaving a mesmerising path through Cold Water.

Like the harsh lunar landscape on the album cover, much of Degrees Of Existence does have a slightly detached mood. That comes as a result of the hypnotic and dreamy drive of the songs. Other than the beautiful and Wilco-esque Too Far To Care; Dimmer never settle into standard strum territory. Instead they pulse with krautrock repetition on Can’t Cut Through or they clear a path of choreographed clatter on Wrong Bus with its queasy horns that bring to mind 90s New Zealand swamp punks S.P.U.D and Solid Gold Hell (whose Gary Sullivan now plays with Dimmer)

Dark Night Of Yourself is a gorgeous centre-piece to the album, all shimmer and haze in the way it drifts along. Carter’s voice is in prime Straitjackets mode with an added touch of maturity. In the past the song would have been faster and sharper. Here it is elegant and  perfectly paced.

Now in his 30th year of playing rock music, Carter is still clearly passionate about chasing his muse. Degrees of Existence is his strongest album under the Dimmer moniker and one senses it is the closest he has got to the essence of his songwriting. Maybe Carter named the band Dimmer because he was stepping away from the bright lights of the commercial music industry, or maybe it was a signal he was stepping into the shadows, closer to the place where his best songs exist.

NEWS: DIMMER about to release new album…

News DS

dimmerdegreesShayne Carter has been in the studio for over a year working on the follow-up to Dimmer‘s acclaimed third album There My Dear and the result is one of the most potent recordings of his remarkable career, Degrees of Existence will be released on 27 July.

Preceded by the snarling melodic brilliance of the singles ‘Degrees of Existence’ and ‘Cold Water’, the latter currently searing across the airwaves, this Dimmer album promises to meet the exacting standards of one of the finest New Zealand groups of recent times.

Inducted to the exclusive membership of the NZ Music Hall of Fame at last year’s Tui Awards with his other most famous act, Straitjacket Fits, Shayne Carter is a man whose incredible music has helped shape the story of NZ song since he emerged in the fertile Dunedin scene of the late 1970s.

Degrees of Existence will be released in NZ on 27 July through Warner Music supported by four North Island shows


Friday 17 July – Cabana, Napier

Saturday 18 July – Bodega, Wellington

Friday 24 July – Kings Arms, Auckland

Saturday 25 July – Flow, Hamilton

NEWS: New DIMMER single…

Shayne Carter’s Dimmer has released a new single entitled Degrees of Existence.  The song has a kicking rhythm section with the bassline pretty much driving the song.  Jagged distant guitar fades in and out with Shayne’s usual sneering vocals topping it off.  A rockier more relaxed Dimmer is upon us and the fourth album is on it’s way.

In other Dimmer news, they are looking foa new drummer as Dino (also HDU) is heading overseas.  Drop them a line at MySpace or via their website if you are interested.