The deliciously mournful music made by Aussie trio Dirty Three is often classified as post-rock. However, they bear little in common with the sturm ünd drang crescendos of Godspeed, You Black Emperor or Explosions in the Sky. Not unlike American string theorists Rachel’s, Dirty Three’s violin-led lilt is really a folksy brand of chamber music. Cinder, their latest for Touch & Go, contains hypnotic mini-suites that sway in delicate rapture.
Despite their avant-inclinations, Dirty Three are not a group hell-bent on re-invention. The band seems content to craft emotionally suggestive instrumentals that allow violinist Warren Ellis (not the writer of comic books) plenty of room to maneuver. He uses this space to draw brooding, sinuous lines across the compositions like red ink on brown parchment. Massive, room mic’ed drums are joined by guitars, bouzouki, mandolin and sundry instrumentation, forming a discreet lullaby coalition. The majority of Cinder feels like a wistful daydream or a half-formed memory; a pleasant, if not entirely distinguishable experience.
The album’s 19 tracks seem magically threaded together, with occasional sonic exclamation points such as the distorto-strut of “Doris” and Chan Marshall’s stunning vocal on “Great Waves.” The latter sounds so spiritually pure it begs for a full-length collaboration between the artists.
“It Happens,” has, believe it or not, the feel of a Stones ballad, replete with a melody lifted from some parched portion of Beggar’s Banquet. The cut’s summery aura still contains a tinge of grief, however; Dirty Three’s music offers mood as a multi-hued concern.
The Celtic-influenced intro on “Too Soon, too Late,” subsequently gives way to a noir-esque waltz that could be the soundtrack to a spaghetti western filmed in coastal Ireland. The oddball gem “Rain On” ambles along in a slow motion stupor. With sporadic percussive events and tumbling guitar lines, it staggers forward like the village beauty on a drunk. “Ember” is similarly tempered, with light brush work and a turbulent, if workmanly chord progression.
Largely, it’s difficult to separate one track from another, but this is probably the intent. With a solid emotional through-line and a few sonic surprises, Cinder is a musical novella, whose narrative compels you to its last luxurious line.
By Casey Rae-Hunter