Tall Dwarfs “Fragile”

1998-tall-dwarfs-fragileThe Tall Dwarfs only had two music videos funded by NZOA, but in both cases they took the funding and made it go far. In this case, the video utilises the magic of green screen to have four layers of video.

The background layer is Queen Street upside down, and I think this is the first time Queen Street has been seen in its less glamorous daytime form. It’s a chance to revisit the street before most of the pink pavers were ripped up in favour of serious bluestone.

So what’s the purpose of this wander around town? Why, it’s to visit the record company. The upside-down camera visits Flying Nun, which looks about as cool as I’d have imagined. Posters and photos adorn the walls, and the camera come across stacks and racks of CDs and LPs. Oh yes.

But remember, this is just the first layer of video. The second is another upside down video, inset in the main image. It shows a bleak urban landscape, weeds, motorway rails, sometimes mirrored in two halves. On top of this is Messrs Knox and Bathgate on percussion and guitar. They have bandages wrapped around their heads and are wearing what look like surreal, fragmented lucha libra masks.

And the fourth layer is the mask-and-bandage-clad dudes popping up again, either separately or together. When the chorus comes along, they’re joined by a hand-drawn “FRAGILE” wobbling over them. This might count as a fifth layer. Crazy.

For a song that’s about fragility, both Alec and Chris and the video itself is wrapped in layers of protection. What’s it protecting? Well, at its heart, it’s a really fine song.

Best bit: the Flying Nun office visit.



Director: Chris Knox
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… inside a Hawke’s Bay art deco gem.

Tall Dwarfs “Fork Songs”

“Fork Songs” was a four-song EP, and the Tall Dwarfs got one funding grant to make videos for all four tracks. Four videos for the price of one? A total move of Knoxian brilliance.

“Wings” has an animated border, with the small centre square showing Chris and Alec mucking around in the Knox lounge room. Dancing with an umbrella and a wheel? Oh, why not?

“Lowlands” is animated, with the animations drawn on the phone book. Starting from the emergency pages at the start, each page moves the animation, with people’s faces morphing into one another. Each chorus is live action footage of a TV, and then it’s back to a replay of the phone book, but getting blacker and scratchier with each reprise.

“Oatmeal” takes the food theme to extremes, with stop-motion animated foodstuffs messing up the place. Dancing chickens, baked beans, bacon, and identifiable edibles. Just when it starts to look palatable, Chris puts a face on it and makes it look at me.

And finally “Two Humans” is a quickly cut montage of still images of many humans. It’s fun to randomly pause, and check out the snapshots of ordinary people in their best ’90s fashions.

The “Fork Songs” videos – each costing an average of $1250 – is evidence that pretty good videos are possible on a very low budget. Of course, it helps when your art already has a low-budget, DIY aesthetic anyway.

Best bit: Chris being caught fiddling with his home recording gear.



Director: Chris Knox
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… Maree goes awol.