First Look: New Dirty Three LP

 

 

Toward the Sun is out this week on Drag City.
Any questions?

 

BY  MIKE SHANLEY

 

It’s
been seven years since the members of the Dirty Three have produced an album,
and they began sounding like a different band. “Furnace Skies” boisterously
kicks things off with rugged free improv, pinned together by an arhythmical
loop of fuzz guitar. Jim White gets the chance to splatter all over his drums,
while a live Mick Turner drones and strums. Warren Ellis’ violin almost gets
buried under the melee, but he makes his presence known. In fact by the end of
the track, he and Turner have double-tracked their instruments and some droning
organ also gets thrown in for good measure. “Furnace Skies” sounds like Dirty
Three’s attempt to blow off the
after the seven year absence, and once they do that, they return to business as
usual.

 

Not
that the rest of Toward the Sun lacks
the excitement of the first track. The trio’s stark sound and loose,
repetitious delivery have always featured more momentum than most rock bands
that specialize in the play-two-chords-soft-play-them-loud-call-it-a-song
formula. Most of this can be attributed to their unusual guitar/violin/drums
lineup, and the way Ellis plays haunting melodies instead of riffing.
Furthermore, you can feel the enthusiasm as they play, even when a song might
be a little sloppy. White always plays like a creative jazz drummer, not just a
time keeper.

 

 


Dirty Three – Rising Below by Bella Union

 

In
addition to following their opening salvo with a tender piano ballad
(“Sometimes I Forget You’ve Gone”), the group tinkers with their sound by
having Turner and Ellis overdub extra guitars and violins in several tracks. It
beefs up the sound while also challenging the ears to figure out who’s playing
what. “Rain Song,” which sounds like a variation on the changes to “Ain’t No
Sunshine When She’s Gone,” has Ellis playing a “lead” violin and gently
plucking another, the latter blending together with Turner. On “That Was Was”
they kick out the jams again and over those power chords, it’s hard to tell at
first if Ellis stomped on a distortion pedal or Turner did. Ever the smart ones
when it comes to programming, they follow this with “Ashen Snow,” a meditation
with piano and mellotron.

 

The
time apart from one another has given the band a more expansive sound and Dirty
Three have pushed themselves to create one of the most
dynamic releases in the catalog.

 

 

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