Dimmer – Hollywood Avondale: September 16, 2022

Dimmer celebrates their 21st at Auckland’s classic Hollywood Avondale theatre with support from Proteins Of Magic.

Lights go dim and Dimmer, as a six-piece ensemble led by creator Shayne Carter, are on and ready to celebrate the 21st anniversary of their landmark debut album I Believe You Are a Star. Delayed for a year due to the covid madness, they are here now for the first of three shows at the iconic Hollywood Theatre in Avondale. The space enhances the majestic cathedral tone of the music.
Guitarist and singer Carter had been a leading light from the Flying Nun label in the Eighties with Bored Games, Double Happys and Straitjacket Fits. The idea for Dimmer started with Carter solo in a studio putting together sounds from a wider palette to his previous work. Joined in this journey by drummer Gary Sullivan, who plays tonight.
The rest: Louisa Nicklin guitar and saxophone, James Duncan bass and guitar, Neive Strang backing vocals and percussion and Nick Roughan keyboards and gadgets.
The show is played in original album sequence, so Drop You Off launches the set. A great bass line, sounding like the punk funk of early Public Image Limited. The music creeps out like a rolling mist. Glassy guitar tones shiver at times.
The volume and intensity increase with All the Way to Her. The engine room keep the funk pop percolating along.
Dimmer evolved out of studio jams and Seed is worked into a stand-out extended piece. Metronomic beats set up a drone rhythm. Nice Captain Beefheart thronged guitar interplay. Carter is a leftie and there is a little bit of Hendrix texture on the wailing guitar bits. As much mutant pop as funk rock. The locked-in riffs eventually meld together into a mantra that could go on indefinitely.

Proteins Of Magic
Proteins Of Magic is the solo project of multi-format New Zealand-born artist Kelly Sherrod, who also works in Nashville, Tennessee.
Always captivating on stage if you get a chance to see her. Equally a performance artist as much a musician. She played bass in Dimmer about fifteen years ago.
She looks like a bleached androgynous Andy Warhol onstage tonight. White costume and porcelain skin.
A minimalist arty pop musician like Laurie Anderson on Families. Against my will/ Born free/ Who is my family? A transhuman appears on the big background screen montage.
Hopeful Symphony is a favourite from her self-titled debut album. She has an arresting deeper tone voice which approaches the cadences of a Helen Shapiro. She can make it a mournful keening. Her phrasing can be spectral and floating. Some African sticks start the song. On the screen a heart melts and transforms.
Comfort Me and she is a folkie with a nice pastoral flute.
I keep thinking Tina Weymouth and on Future, that comes to pass as. There is some of the ambience of tribal funk-era Talking Heads. The voice is dramatic and anguished. A claymation head on the screen keeps mutating. The past sure is tense? So is the future.
From the mouth of God/ A baby’s breath? A new song to wrap up her set. Breaths used as looped beats. Flute and electronic textures. Sci-Fi music and surreal images behind. Place your eggs inside? The trip ends in death.
Captivating, and always a continually evolving artist.
I Believe You Are a Star. A familiar cheer from the crowd. It took a little while for the dancers to get up to front of stage. The music is just as visceral as it is cerebral. The style here is closer to the ominous funk soul of Sly Stone when he dropped There’s a Riot Goin’ On. The deep roots of gangsta rap. Jazz keyboard tones.
Evolution has a bed of minimalist rock and more Seventies soul jazz. A soul evolution.
Smoke and the deep bass tones rumble up through the wooden floor. The music creeps out and there are some Eastern guitar licks.
With Drift the band leaves with only Carter and Sullivan on stage. To recreate the original jams of the genesis of Dimmer. Big floor-rumbling rhythm. Music rises like a slow-building storm, ambient and elemental. It has some of the majestic beauty of the drone patterns of Suicide.
Under the Light. I notice the syn-drums. Some surf guitar, and it feels like space flight. With the quieter passages of The Doors’ The End creeping in there.
Sad Guy is a meditative end to the cycle, with what appear to be whale sounds added in.
A half-dozen songs then follow which raises the dance atmosphere of the room. The crowd are well-lubricated by now.
Scrap Book is a highlight. A rocker with a huge engine from the rhythm section. Then Carter lays down some of the codas from Michael Bloomfield’s guitar on East-West. The quieter passages.
There are some nice sax breaks. At times jazz, at others Seventies soul. A whip cracks from somewhere. Guitars can get twangy. They also get to wail and boil over.
They return for an encore and add Kelly of Proteins, to play bass. Screeches and squalls with guitar pyrotechnics as the band goes for it in one final burst. This is Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison locking into a drone in the Velvet time machine.
Dimmer make a triumphant and spectacular show in giving their justly celebrated I Believe You Are a Star album it’s coming-of-age 21st birthday celebration.

Rev Orange Peel

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