Pioneers of the lo-fi aesthetic, the Tall Dwarfs spluttered into life during 1979 by singers/songwriters Chris Knox and Alec Bathgate following the demise of their previous band, the legendary Toy Love. Recording on Knox’s four-track machine, the duo debuted with the 1981 EP Three Songs, highlighted by the classic Nothing’s Going to Happen.
Back then, the Tall Dwarfs represented the D.I.Y. & home taping ethic and aesthetic at their purest songs were all recorded at home (performed in bedrooms, hallways and the like) and the band produced all of their own videos and promotional materials. In 2002, nothing has changed, bar the recorded medium! With the reluctant and somewhat tardy introduction to digital technology, our duo have begun to investigate the myriad of possibilities of time-stretching, looping and cut’n’paste editing that the Tall Dwarfs had already perfected previously on old fashioned magnetic tape. Which is not to say they have forsaken that wonderful medium, 99% of the new record being recorded to 1/2″ 8-track tape before dumping to digital.
In between the band have amassed a huge back catalogue of EP’s and full-length albums, as well as healthy solo recording careers. The Tall Dwarfs have toured the USA, Europe and Australia. Their records & solo albums have been released internationally by various labels including Flying Nun (their home), Homestead, Communion, Rough Trade, Caroline, Thirsty Ear, and Dark Beloved Cloud.
Their new album, The Sky Above The Mud Below, features a variety of musical instruments, either sampled or played by humans. These instruments include looped vocals, cello, clarinet, Korg analogue synth, Casiotone keyboard, Mellotron, bass and all sorts of guitars. The majority of the album is full of their best duo work in years. Weird pop songs, or pretty pop songs made up from weird bits, depending upon how you view it. The last third of the album is a separate EP featuring the return of the International Tall Dwarfs, this time in the guise of Jad Fair, Graeme Downs (Verlaines), Jeff Mangum (Neutral Milk Hotel) & Laura Carter (Elf Power), David & Hamish Kilgour (Clean) who assist the Dwarfs in a manner that leans much more toward the experimental than the popular. Fans of both sides of the Dwarfs’ personality will be delighted.
What the press has said about the Tall Dwarfs:
“The duo is a bottomless well of weird melodies and even weirder lyrics…Tall Dwarfs’ songs are usually instant charmers.” — Drawer B
“In their own humble way, the Dwarfs have infected every unsuspecting mind that unwittingly or otherwise touched their music.” — Real Groove
“Chris Knox is the godfather of the New Zealand alternative-music scene – if Iggy Pop, Joan Jett, Robyn Hitchcock and Lou Reed were all the same person, that’s how important he is to Kiwi pop… It also doesn’t hurt that he’s a first-rate songwriter.” — Trouser Press