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album review: dirty three, toward the low sun

Every once in a while, you come across a musician or group and after listening to a handful of songs, think to yourself “How have I been missing out on this awesome band for so long?”

Enter Dirty Three, an instrumental trio featuring Mick Turner on guitar, Jim White on drums and Warren Ellis on violin. When I was notified that their latest album Toward the Low Sun was available for review, I agreed to review it before giving any anything a full listen-through, just because I liked what I briefly heard and was happy to have something new to write about for this week’s review. I know the Dirty Three are a big deal in Australia, but here in the US they are relatively unknown, especially in the mainstream. After asking some of my more musically savvy friends what they know about the Dirty Three, the answer I got most frequently was “don’t they kind of play with Nick Cave?”

Dirty Three’s sound reminds me a bit of Medeski Martin & Wood because of the masterfully achieved mix of unstructured jam sessions in structured musical arrangements. The classic rock and jam band influence on songs like “That Was Was” really reminds me of any Medeski Martin & Wood live performance. While Dirty Three is not overtly a jazz band as MMW is, the flowing arrangements and quality production on Toward the Low Sun gives the album the improvisation feeling that so clearly recalls jazz.

I could listen to Toward the Low Sun the whole way through for days. It sounds like the type of music you hear at your favorite neighborhood bar, something you put on right when you get home from work or something to listen to while doing something creative. My favorite tracks on the album are those that most heavily use the violin, like “Moon on the Land” and “Rising Below”. I like how layered guitarwork over the constant violin and muted drum beat makes these tracks wonderfully Celtic. The heavy distortion on “Rising Below” and “The Pier” recalls the Sigur Rós “post-rock” aesthetic, but in a way that is entirely unique because of the presence of the violin.

Toward the Low Sun perfectly marries traditional rock music arrangements and tempos with post-rock production and classic instrumental technique. It’s unlike anything I’ve heard so far this year, and that’s a good thing. Pick up a copy of Toward the Low Sun – you won’t regret it.

Have a listen to Dirty Three’s ‘Rising Below’:

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