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February 14, 2005 | by  | in Features | [ssba]


Shane Carter, the man behind the music, is consistently described as the godfather of New Zealand rock. But is the label warranted? Sir Phillip Sherry shares his thoughts.

Of all the thousands of words written on the man that is Dimmer, Shayne Carter, every article seems bound by some unwritten convention to describe him as a stalwart, the godfather of New Zealand rock, and a beacon shining towards the future of our phonic industries. Thirty words in and this article is no different from the rest. It’s no different because it is indeed impossible to describe the man for whom music has always been more than a pastime or even an occupation. Carter’s vocational dedication to the sounds that he and his band produce have given birth to two examples of how music is done.

Carter’s musical lineage should be well known by almost anyone who takes the time to read Salient’s music pages, but to recap: Born in the South Island, Carter was, at a young age, exposed to the rapidly broadening horizon of rock music by his impassioned parents. Drawing on that knowledge, he kicked off his career early on, mixing tapes in his mates’ garages with whatever equipment he could pull together. Bored Games, the Doublehappys and Dunedin-sound stalwarts Straitjacket Fits marked Carter’s arrival onto the New Zealand music scene. Since the early ‘90s, Carter has been working with a variety of musicians to create his vision for Dimmer.
And what a vision he has. The first album, I Believe You Are A Star, is nothing short of a triumph. Not just for the sounds that the band produces, but for Carter himself coming to terms with the intricacies of audio engineering tools, which took several years and was no mean feat in itself. But he knocked the bastard off and created an album that has been critically acclaimed (nominations were aplenty in the B-Nets, where over the last few years Dimmer have been nominated for Best Live Act, Best Album, Best Vocalist, Best Song, and Outstanding Musician among others), as well having recently achieved Gold Record status. My personal favourite track on the album would have to be ‘Powercord’, (totally orgasmic). This first album, rightfully, established Dimmer as the new beacon of New Zealand aurality.

Star has been matched, if not surpassed, by Dimmer’s second release You’ve Got To Hear The Music. The band is evidently more comfortable with their sound, having produced this album with greater haste than the first – though with no less care. An easier, funkier sound has been employed for this album. Wellington locals Fat Freddy’s Drop were drawn in, if only for a swift and sweet horn intro to ‘Getting What You Give’, which was nominated for New Zealand’s most prestigious award, the Silver Scroll, but unfortunately lucked out to heavy hitter Scribe.

Dimmer’s very sensual music seems to come from 4am, when the world is totally at peace with itself. It fills a moment after the revelry of the evening just past, and before the growing discomfort that comes with the rising sun, a time of understanding and compassion that will be forgotten as soon as your head hits the pillow.

If this label didn’t sound quite so affected, Dimmer’s sound could easily be described as Sonic Jazz – a thumping, yet tender, landscape of sound. A wall of sound, with that wicked textured wallpaper that feels so good at four in the morning. When your head achieves a clarity that can only exist in the shortest space between the bar and your bed, warm with crisp sheets; this is Dimmer. It’s a clarity of thought. It’s the creation of sound that isn’t acting up to anyone’s standards but Carter’s own. You can feel that. But don’t be mistaken into thinking that these are descriptions of a concept far too esoteric to succinctly describe. There is an unmistakable New Zealandness to Dimmer’s sound, which can all be drawn back to Carter’s influence. The fusion of his creative ideals into the music community cannot be overlooked. And it isn’t. That’s why any article relating to Carter seems bound by convention to include key words like ‘stalwart’ and ‘godfather’. He’s huge; the rugged sophisticate, and he’s not about to disappear in a hurry. New Zealand music, not to mention New Zealand in general, should be thankful.

So to summarise, why should you, the young-and-moneyed punter, go to see Dimmer when they grace this town with their superlative sound? The answer to this question extends far beyond my limited vocabulary, but I’ll give you three. Because Dimmer is the thread that binds New Zealand’s musical microcosmos together. Because Shayne Carter has had many, many years to become as cool as he is and maybe, perhaps, you could pick up some of his moves and share, and employ your newfound skills. And because he is a shining towering monument, guiding the music industry where it has been and, most definitely, to where it is headed.


About the Author ()

Salient is a magazine. Salient is a website. Salient is an institution founded in 1938 to cater to the whim and fancy of students of Victoria University. We are partly funded by VUWSA and partly by gold bullion that was discovered under a pile of old Salients from the 40's. Salient welcomes your participation in debate on all the issues that we present to you, and if you're a student of Victoria University then you're more than welcome to drop in and have tea and scones with the contributors of this little rag in our little hideaway that overlooks Wellington.

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