Mood music – now there’s a term that’s far outlived its usefulness. We could be talking about Yanni or Brian Eno, Kenny G or Miles Davis, Neil Diamond or John Fahey … or, in this case, Dirty Three. The Australian trio’s music – a meditative blend of violin, guitar, percussion and the occasional mandolin – might encourage fits of reverie, or plant-watering, or bill-paying, or any of the things someone does with “mood music.” But it is emphatically more complex, more worth our attention, than any odd bit of white noise.
Like many of its predecessors, Cinder explores folk’s liminal spaces, reveling in the combustion between an ancient melody and a gutsy, instinctual performance. “Doris” is a surprising call to arms, with angular guitars and bagpipes piling on top of Jim White’s solid (albeit rare) backbeat. It’s the perfect soundtrack to a football match pub fight.
Generally, though, Cinder keeps things reserved, letting the sad-eyed melodies teeter around the room at a drunkard’s pace. While an album’s worth of all this Gaelic brooding might be a bit much, Dirty Three lightens the proceedings with two vocal performances, a first in the band’s near-fifteen-year career. The Mekons’ Sally Timms adds a few ambient touches to “Feral,” and indie’s favorite M.I.A. singer/songwriter Chan Marshall takes a worthy swing at “Great Waves.”
With seven albums behind them, the members of Dirty Three continue to tread rare waters, giving us every reason to follow in their wake.
Dirty Three Web site