Review : The Dirty Three - Toward the Low Sun
PitchforkSeven years is long enough for people to forget about you, but not quite long enough to cast your reunion as a victorious, back-from-the-dead surprise. Then again, Dirty Three didn't so much dramatically break up as simply run out of roads to travel. From 1993 to 2005, the band had pushed its minimal violin/guitar/drum set-up to epic extremes, from desert-storming ragers (1996's Horse Stories) to exquisitely melancholic meditations (1998's Ocean Songs) to Godspeed-sized pomp-rock spectacle (2000's Whatever You Love, You Are). But the Australian trio's last release, Cinder, felt like a conscious act of retreat, what with compact three-minute compositions and Cat Power cameos nudging their once-volatile sound toward NPR-friendly accessibility. But it's not as if Dirty Three have been spending the past seven years trying to refine and build upon Cinder's pop overtures; as Toward the Low Sun strongly suggests, it's just taken them that long to unlearn everything they've known before in an attempt to start anew.
Of course, violinist Warren Ellis had a lot of practice in the deconstruction department during the intervening years, having reported back to active Bad Seeds duty for the especially sleazy Dig, Lazarus Dig!!!, while joining Nick Cave's even more depraved offshoot act Grinderman for a two-album skronk-rock joyride. So it's fitting that Toward the Low Sun's torrential opener, "Furnace Skies", sounds like it was recorded with Grinderman's still-warm equipment; it reintroduces us to Dirty Three mid-freakout, with ever-astounding drummer Jim White treating his snare drum like a machine-gunned target at a firing range, while Ellis and Mick Turner respectively poke through the percussive melee with teaser violin refrains and random shards of electric guitar. The appearance of a three-note Farfisa riff partway through introduces some semblance of shape to the piece, but "Furnace Skies" is essentially what you'd expect from a band that hasn't played together in several years: It's a warm-up exercise, an opportunity to get the limbs loosened, the blood pumping, and the instruments tuned. But it also sets you up for a big payoff that the rest of Toward the Low Sun isn't so keen to deliver....full text
GuardianEven fans of Australia's the Dirty Three might admit that their sound has a limiting constancy about it. The trio's restless instrumental rock has pitted Jim White's free beats against Mick Turner's guitar against Warren Ellis's libertarian violin since 1992. The D3's last effort, 2005's Cinder, was uncharacteristically mild-mannered, prompting fears that they might have run out of things to say. But their eighth outing reaffirms their wordless eloquence. Opener "Furnace Skies" blares out a kind of weepy punk free-jazz, one riddled with ancient mitteleuropean melancholy. Extra-curricular piano on tracks like "Ashen Snow" provide additional nuance on this saturated beauty of a record....full text
BbcBy getting back to basics and running on their instincts it would seem as if Australia’s finest threesome have rediscovered just what it is that makes them great. After their last full-length, 2005’s Cinder, saw a more structured approach in the studio with slightly disappointing results this, their eighth album, sees a welcome return to the lengthier improvised explorations that marked their earliest fiery recordings.
The trio’s innate shared language, borne through playing together in a slew of various set-ups over the years, is immediately evident on opener Furnace Skies, a combustible free jazz flurry that, on first listen, would sound more at home on Norway’s Rune Grammofon imprint. This is the noise of old friends kicking back, having a blast. The squeals of feedback from Warren Ellis’ tortured violin that herald That Was Was seem to comprise something of a metallic metaphor; custodial shackles being defiantly flung to the ground.
But Towards the Low Sun is far from being a bludgeoning, self-indulgent sprawl. It’s a work suffused with all the dynamics that made classic Dirty Three albums like Horse Stories and Ocean Songs such pleasurable feasts. Mick Turner’s deliciously understated, impressionistic guitar flickers at the heart of the hesitant Sometimes I Forget You’ve Gone. His deft playing accompanies some doleful piano filigrees and Jim White’s flailing percussion that rides out on muted cymbal shimmer. Ellis shines brightest on the dulcet Moon on the Land, his instrument lending the track its heart-stopping Celtic folk refrain. But maybe best of all is the stately piano-led Ashen Snow, a wispy hymnal propelled by a cascading flute call and thumping kick drum that could have been a slow dance smash for all manner of forest critters....full text
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