Tall Dwarfs “Fork Songs”

“Fork Songs” was a four-song EP, and the Tall Dwarfs got one single funding grant to make videos for all four tracks. Four videos for the price of one? With the Tall Dwarf’s DIY chops, this is business as usual!

“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.

Jan Hellriegel “No Idea”

The first single released off Jan Hellriegel’s debut album “It’s My Sin” was the lush “The Way I Feel”, and yet the later release “No Idea” was apparently the first to get video funding. I guess someone had second thoughts about which song would be best to launch Ms Helleiegel into pop hyperspace.

“No Idea” is a rock tune that deals with a person who has annoyed the singer. The video, though, is a little confusing. It features Jan singing the song (ok), but is cut with extreme closeups of her band – so close that it’s not apparent that they’re actually playing musical instruments. So it’s like “Who are these random Westies and what are they doing in this video?”

It doesn’t help that one of the guys suddenly drinks from a glass of wine, followed up with a later close-up of a glass of wine. This feels like a reference to West Auckland winemaking (which Jan also touched on in her song “Westie Girls”) but it’s not totally clear. Maybe they just fancy a wine.

But aside from that, Jan in her peasant blouse, high-contrast makeup (including matt lipstick) and shoulder-length hair pretty much represents the cool look of the early 90s.

Best bit: with no context, a man climbs through a window.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… Chris and Alec’s four-for-one deal.

Hinewehi Mohi “Kia U”

Years before Hinewehi Mohi teamed up with Jaz Coleman to form the world music power pop group Oceania, she released “Kia U”, a sweet te reo soul song. The production of the song is a little painful – clunky, cheesy synth and Santana-wannabe guitar.

The video — directed by the accomplished filmmaker Niki Caro — is simple but effective. Hinewehi is filmed in close-up, with the camera exploring her face. We also see other women, one holding a baby. This is cut with shots of native bush, and the occasional glimpse of the glamour of a modern city. The camera lingers on the ordinary – a logo, a fence, a skyscraper – seeing patterns that a passerby might not.

I’m missing out a little by not understanding the lyrics – they’re in te reo Māori. The occasional word jumps out at me, but I’m relying on other contexts, including the music video, for meaning. But that’s what a good music video does.

It’s a nice video, but I’m so glad she got a better producer for the music.

Best bit: the slow pan over the gold dots of the old BNZ crest logo.

Director: Niki Caro
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a westie girl is launched into pop hyperspace.