Thursday, March 1, 2012
Dirty Three - Towards the low sun review
Towards the low sun starts in a disorientating storm and through the tempest, threads of beauty start to appear. First track, Furnace Skies is a Grinderman-esque collision of sounds that is unsettling as it is unexpected but as the song progresses, a gentle guitar and violin line can be discerned through the chaos. The Dirty Three have returned but even as elder statesmen of the indie scene you can hardly file them under easy listening. That austere beauty is continued in the second track Sometimes I Forget You've Gone although someone forgot to tell Jim White who drums like a maniac under sparsest of canvasses.
It is this ability to train elegant phrasing with discord that sets the Dirty Three aside from their peers - whoever they are. They are often lumped in with post-rock but that seems too convenient and simplistic. The first time I saw the Dirty Three in any iteration was when Jim White and Warren Ellis played with Aussie rock legend Kim Salmon (Beasts of Bourbon, The Scientists) and that show was post-nothing - it was electric rock n' roll (Ellis and White recorded one album with Salmon called Hey Believer - track it down). As such, every time I've seen the Dirty Three there is no sense that it is anything other than three men pushing the boundaries of rock and roll with Ellis playing a spaced out improvising Hendrix like virtuoso to White and Turner's foundation groove. This is not easy music sometimes but it is always rewarding.
However, the rock has mellowed over time and Towards the low sun continues the Dirty Three's trend inward as they have on their last two records Cinder and She has no strings Apollo. Songs such as Moon on the Land, Pier and Rain Song are soulful invocations and concise statements rather than extended rock jams that peppered their classic Ocean Songs period. That Was Was is the rockiest thing here with Ellis unleashing his distortion pedals on a whipsmart (un)conventional Turner boogie.
All of the tracks here are quality, worth exploring with repeat listens but sadly, I feel the Dirty Three have reached the point where whatever record they produce will be a slight disappointment. As a band they are in the unenviable position of producing two masterpieces (Horse Stories and Ocean Songs) and as such, almost every album since then will suffer (this happens a lot - I mean in literary terms it's like Don DeLillo's Underworld, a novel he will never surpass no matter what he writes). To be honest, that's a total cop out criticism wise but that's just how I feel. But despite that feeling, there is something exhilarating and rare in the music that the Dirty Three produces - it is music without boundaries, without fear and without care for what I think. Another Dirty Three record is cause for celebration...