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Album Review
Toward The Low Sun

Toward The Low Sun
by Dirty Three

Drag City

Review Date
29th March 2012
Reviewed by
Ricardo Kerr

As anyone who has seen their inspiring live show will attest, Dirty Three are a force of nature churning out their down-home post-rock steeped in the American Gothic. While their members are spread across the globe doing various projects, Dirty Three is at its core a Melbourne band and they represent that city’s lunatic fringe. The group consists of violinist Warren Ellis (Grinderman, The Bad Seeds), guitarist Mick Turner (who also painted the album cover) and drummer Jim White. The inclusion of a violin pushes their music into melancholy territory but it is miles away from dreaded elevator music, often even filthier sounding than Turner’s decayed guitar noodling. Toward The Low Sun is their seventh album all up and what a milestone it is, a deranged meander through the wilderness of the soul.

Things start on a particularly hairy note with ‘Furnace Skies’. This is Dirty Three at their most volatile. Jim White pounds away on the drums like there is no tomorrow while Mick Turner and Warren Ellis interweave their instruments to make one hell of a chaotic mess. You can practically hear the mixing board catch fire as it barrels towards its smoldering conclusion. Even this far into their career they are still trying new things. It appears that Ellis’ time in Nick Cave’s Grinderman has pushed him either further towards the edge of the abyss. That is not to say that all three aren’t wild men in their own right – their individual legacies speak for themselves. After the opening barrage cools down to a steady simmer the charming Dirty Three we remember return to enchant us with their stately beauty. The ponderous ‘Sometimes I Forget You’ve Gone’ rides a swooning scattershot beat that would turn heads at a Radiohead fan club. Coming directly after the opening track’s muscularity it shows a disarmingly wounded side to the album, beyond all the bluster and bravado.

‘You Greet Her Ghost’ is a lush, broke-down waltz that closes the album on a calm note even if White’s booming toms threaten to explode into the fore at any minute. While pianos and violins lull you into a sedated sway the uncouth percussion reminds you that flesh-and-blood men are behind the controls. Instrumental music is hard to decipher in terms of a theme but there is something pastoral in there. Toward The Low Sun is underpinned by a contemplative mood with something sinister always just out of reach. That something sinister often comes in the form of howling guitar distortion or stabs of discordant violin. You’ve got to give it to Dirty Three – they know how to make their instruments sounds thoroughly unpleasant when called upon to do so. And that is a key element the musical voodoo of Dirty Three; the ability to sooth one minute and terrify the next.


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