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from the vaults

Tall Dwarfs

Cloud Recordings has reissued two Tall Dwarf albums from the early '90s, hoping to renew interest in the New Zealand duo, which recently reunited for a few U.S shows. Like Fork Songs and most other Tall Dwarfs material, Weeville began as a bed of tape loops-the band later relied on loops submitted by fans for Stumpy-before being fleshed out with jaunty keys and guitars amid the alternating lyrics of Chris Knox and Alec Bathgate. Like those on his many solo albums, Knox's songs here are vitriolic and misshapen (sample lyric: "You sold your soul to the stock exchange of the bottomless hole"), where Bathgate's are sleepy and sublime (the closing "Hallelujah Boy" chides Christians gently). Since Bathgate never matched his partner's solo output-but do track down '96's wondrous Gold Lame-Tall Dwarfs records remain the best place to hear him. Trading strange little songs on the cusp of a new decade for underground rock, Knox and Bathgate bridged the gap between the Velvet Underground and bands like Pavement and Guided By Voices. Weeville also underscores just how profoundly the Kiwi scene affected America's Elephant 6 collective, which took that affinity for pretty/ugly experimentation to dizzying heights. A (D.W.)

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