Australian instrumental trio Dirty Three’s first full-length in seven years, Toward The Low Sun begins with a dizzying, aggressive rampage of frenetic improv and brawny rock heft bizarrely infused with country twang. If the trio were a beast, it would be a rabid one, but rarely has a creature so enraged and rugged sounded so sorrowful. This marvelous, and frequently beautiful, sadness persists across the album’s nine tunes.
Jim White slips with ease between Rashied Ali-style drumming (the ever-shifting textures of “Sometimes I Forget You’ve Gone”) and more traditional time-keeping (the slow brush strokes of “Moon On The Land”), while Mick Turner frequently swaps his electric (the harmonically shimmering, drunken jangling of “The Pier”) for an acoustic guitar (the tender fingerpicking of “Rain Song”). But while Dirty Three is all about exploring an improvised group dialogue where each member’s superb musicianship contributes equally, it’s Warren Ellis’ violin that consistently punches to the fore.
Ellis’ penchant for pensive soundtrack scoring (for films like The Road and The Proposition) and the unapologetic, over-the-top bravado he brings to Nick Cave-fronted rock outfit Grinderman converge swimmingly. His gloomy, sustained notes morph into romantic melodies on brooding slow-burner “Rising Below,” and when he amplifies and distorts his strings on “That Was Was,” his scrappy, cowboy/outlaw-swagger emerges. Combining these diverse voices, White, Turner and Ellis realize a unique musical conversation between country, post-rock, and experimental sounds, and an endless wandering, back and forth, between loneliness and collective rage. But even during its most melancholic and introspective moments, Toward The Low Sun exudes a fervid, unstoppable hopefulness.