Dirty Three : Toward The Low Sun

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Dirty Three : Toward The Low Sun


The very notion of there being a ‘definitive’ Dirty Three album is incongruous. Since the band’s formation in the early 1990s, through to its subsequent evolution into a world-renowned act of unimpeachable quality, the Dirty Three has spat in the face of simplistic categorisation, stared down patronising rhetoric and sniggered openly at futile efforts to contrive a poly-dimensional conceptual construct into which the band can be lumped. 

So when Warren Ellis proclaims the band’s latest album, Toward The Low Sun, to be possibly the band’s definitive record, you know there’s an element of mischief in the air. What, for example, do you make of the opening track, Furnace Skies, an exposition of unbridled instrumental chaos? Mick Turner extracts industrial quality feedback from the pages of his Fungus Brain catalogue, Jim White ranges across his kit at meta-Keith Moon pace while Warren Ellis caresses his violin like a chastened lover searching for answers; a psychotic blend of The Doors’ acid-drenched instrumentation and the MC5’s Black to Comm.

From there the mood reverts to tranquillity: Sometimes I Forget You’ve Gone meanders through fields glistening with romantic memory, with White’s rhythmic flourishes a reminder that just beyond every rose-coloured recollection lies moments of emotional turmoil. Moon on the Land is the trip back in time to a world of elegance, simplicity, innocence and hope; Rising Below could be the Dirty Three’s take on Johnny Cash’s trans-continental railway journeys, where every window brings with it a glimpse into the nooks and crannies of society. On The Pier the band returns to the edge of the maritime environment of Ocean Songs; Turner and Ellis trade musical observations of nautical worlds found and lost, where anything is possible if only you care.

Rain Song is contemplative and intense, a journey across a sparse land populated by emptiness and the occasional flash of possibility; this is the Dirty Three stripped back to its fundamental parts, walking hand in hand with Hugo Race’s Dirt Music through the African desert. On That Was Was events take a turn into darkness, anger and frustration; the shit is hitting the fan, and only the Dirty Three can see a way out, but it’s going to be a dangerous, albeit ultimately rewarding journey. 

With its lilting flute melody, Ashen Snow is every second the wondrous vision of 19th century European beauty, replete with snowflakes, chimney ash and stunning mountain views. The album concludes with You Greet Her Ghost; the moment begins enigmatically, each member gradually finding time, space and instrumental association. There is something here to behold, but it hides from view – sometimes allusion is the better part of intensity.

The Dirty Three is an institution; an institution to which many aspire, but only few are worthy to enter. Toward the Low Sun is definitive Dirty Three brilliance. Again.


Best Track: Rising Below

If You Like This, You’ll Like These: FUNGUS BRAINS, TREN BROTHERS and, oh, everything else released by the DIRTY THREE

In A Word: Definitive