By RUSSELL BAILLIE



(Herald rating: * * * * * )



Great albums have a way of revealing themselves in their own good time. I'm not sure if I've quite got to the bottom of Dimmer's long-awaited debut after listening to it since its arrival more times than is probably healthy - but it is a great album. A keeper which will be returned to again and again. And it's one to which all other New Zealand albums in 2001 will be compared and possibly found wanting.



It's also proof that while Shayne Carter will forever - well, here at least - be tied to old outfit the Straitjacket Fits, his is a talent that isn't tied to that band's brief time in the sun.

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If this might be considered his solo debut (the drumming of Gary Sullivan is a big factor in its hazy-but-groovy feel), then it sounds as if Carter is quite comfortable going it alone, with a set of songs that are direct, intimate and vaguely conspiratorial in mood. Musically, he's also coming at it from a far different angle to the wiry rock of his previous bands.



The starting point to this might be brooding SJF songs like If I Were You - now subtract the rock bits and add cliche-free electronics.



The remarkable thing about I Believe You Are A Star is how much power it harnesses while barely breaking into a sweat.



Certainly, it throbs dangerously on the likes of See, a slow-fused track which gradually builds up the layers of distortion.



Likewise, the title track with its low-slung bass could well have been an SJF song - if they had ended their days as the house band in the sort of neon-lit strip joint you probably only ever see in the movies.



But this mostly stays in the shadows and Carter's once gripping rock sneer has been replaced by a voice swinging between falsetto and near-whispering bittersweet nothings.



The ways he drops lines such as "I'm not your friend I'm a stone cold traitor" on the opening track, Drop You Off, is but one of many dark thrills on offer from the vocals here.



Elsewhere, early single Evolution sits neatly as a tuneful bit of noir-soul among the 13 tracks.



The likes of All The Way to Her offer a line in shadowy funk, there's a couple of catch-your-breath instrumentals in Drift, Powercord (DIY techno of mad submarine noises, clipped guitar, crazy brass and one swinging beat) and the closing Sad Guy (a guitar, drum and bass drone'n'rumble which provides a neatly atmospheric coda).



Among the plain old songs there's something warped and quite lovely in both Pendulum (all slide guitars and electronics at a frequency which should have the neighbourhood canines howling along) and Under the Light (which suggests a collision of vintage early Eno and electrosoul).



It's quite a leap - and Carter has been a long time up in the air - but it's one very happy landing



It sounds as if finally a man who's been in a great New Zealand band or two has concentrated on making a great album.



It's worked a treat. I Believe You are A Star is a dark wonder.



Label: Columbia