Dirty Three – Toward The Low Sun


Artist: Dirty Three
Album: Toward The Low sun
Label: Drag City
Rating: 7.8

I am listening to the new Dirty Three album for the first time while watching the Los Angeles Lakers duel the Dallas Mavericks down in the Lone Star State on a small television set. It is an immediately appropriate soundtrack – the relentless introductory fuzz loop repeating while feedbacking guitars interlock and disperse. As always, it’s unclear which sounds are coming from which instruments with the Australian “Triangle Offense.” Upon closer listening, it’s possible to discern who’s doing what, but it’s easy to lose track. Jim White’s drums are purposefully frantic, and an organ drones as the chaos subsides. Jason Kidd launches a three- pointer to knot the score at 59. A timeout is called, and the music eases while the commercial break begins.

This is clearly a Dirty Three record. It’s sort of jazz. It’s sort of noise. It’s sort of rock. I know these men are from Down Under, but there is something about this record that belongs in the American Southwest. Not just the fiddle, either. OK, maybe it is just the fiddle. Maybe it’s just the geography of this basketball game influencing me.

Having said that, the soundtrack for this visual marathon doesn’t always work the way I want it to. Juxtaposing a slow motion replay of Kobe Bryant backing Shawn Marion down in the paint with a brushed drum beat, a palm-muted acoustic guitar, and a sauntering violin is sorta stunning, but it’s hard to argue that the beauty and sadness from the some of the slower songs is an apt match for Mavs owner Mark Cuban going gorillas in the stands, screaming at the referee for a travel call. With that in mind, it’s clear that this album begs for your undivided attention – it’s not to be ignored, and it might not be a record you throw on your iPod for a road trip. Dirty Three have always been a band to listen to by yourself. Unless your friend group is a bunch of jazz nerds or something. But this reviewer can’t imagine listening to Mick Turner making a simple chord change, and instantly giving meaning to the song title, “Rises Below”. Vocals have never been necessary in this band. “That Was Was” stands out. Heavily
distorted lines from the legendary Warren Ellis are unmistakably his. White and Turner lay back and chug along while the undeniable frontman of the band shines.

Ultimately, this band is still an argument, a jockeying of positions. This record delivers moments of harmony, but more of dueling differences, and that’s awesome. It works. For all the rising tension and anxiety on Toward the Low Sun, by the end of the last song, “You Greet Her Ghost”, it doesn’t feel like failure was ever looming. On the bench, Metta World Peace applauds enthusiastically.

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