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Record Reviews

The Dirty Three
Toward The Low Sun

The Dirty Three sound as fresh and vital as ever on their first album in seven years, writes AARON CURRAN.

Toward the Low Sun came from difficult beginnings but you're unlikely to guess this from hearing it. It's a formidable album, taut and restless, brimming with confidence, ideas and ability. Still, according to Warren Ellis, there was a strong chance it might never have existed.

Ellis recently told me that for a long time after their last album, 2005's Cinder, the band were unable to conjure anything in the studio that could spark their interests and match past glories, to the point where the Dirty Three came close to breaking up. “Nothing had come out of any new sessions that we'd done,” he said, “and certainly I was a little spooked by that. You know it felt like maybe this was the end of the group. Before this new record, it felt like that.” But with Toward The Low Sun, things took a brighter turn and now, with a much-anticipated tour of Australia beginning next month, there's not a snowball's chance in hell that Ellis, Turner and White will soon be winding things down. If this record is any indication, you’ll miss the forthcoming shows at your peril.

Dirty Three - "Rising Below" by CHARTattack

Toward The Low Sun is a work that successfully melds the strongest elements of their past with persuasive experimentation that's done with subtlety, economy and reach. It contains some of the noisiest, most insistent music the Dirty Three have yet created, however it also takes time to unfold and reveal itself. I'm still hearing brave new things 20 listens in; there are occasional moments when the knotted, overdubbed intricacy of some arrangements confounds certainty as to whether these thrilling sounds are being made by a violin or a guitar. Unlike some Dirty Three releases, it'd be difficult to have this one softly playing as gentle background music, yet just when you're resigned to a brash and bumpy ride you'll be caught off-guard by shameless melodies and soaring musicianship that coalesce in moments of overwhelming optimism.

Importantly there's just the three of them playing here, no guest stars this time. Opening track 'Furnace Skies' is a brash statement of intent, with burbling Terry Riley-like keyboards fighting it out against unfettered drumming and swathes of violin and guitar over an insistent loop of needling noise that is as unforgiving as wildfire in a drought. The tension it creates is immediately tempered by the more meditative 'Sometimes I Forget You're Gone'. Restrained piano and guitar gently pushes against less-dignified bursts of percussion; Jim White's sputtering patter taps and spits, falling drunkenly forward to the song's finish. Third track 'Moon on the Land' is hearty, spiced and warm and, like many of the best Dirty Three songs, it seems to offer the listener a measure of hope and respite.

“It contains some of the noisiest, most insistent music the Dirty Three have yet created.”

In 'Rising Below' a chugging rhythm saws upwards from one violin to propel the overdubbed soloing of another, supported by the wiry mesh of Mick Turner's playing. 'That Was Was' features overdriven, distorted violin breaks that at points reminds me of Lou Reed's unhinged guitar solo from 'I Heard Her Call My Name', though after more mulled wine and less methedrine. 'Ashen Snow' is a much more delicate delight; piano and mellotron meet in a moody combination of Ravel and late ’60s psych-folk that builds memorably to a rousing chorus, then drops off suddenly into silence. It's difficult not to hit the repeat button as soon as it stops.

'You Greet Her Ghost' concludes things with a whisper. It sounds like it was recorded live and features the trio back where they first began, creating compelling sounds from only three raw elements - a violin, a guitar and drums – yet sounding fresh and vital, like the last 20 years have never happened.


The Dirty Three's 'Toward The Low Sun' is out today (February 24) through Anchor & Hope/Remote Control.

  -   Published on Friday, February 24 2012 by Aaron Curran.
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Your Comments

watermelon  said about 3 years ago:

cant wait to hear it

whatwhat  said about 3 years ago:

Songs are so short compared to any of their other records

steveholt  said about 3 years ago:

I've had this for a week now. I reckon every day I've listened to the whole album half a dozen times. It really is excellent.

5 star review in The Age EG today.

oldtimer  said about 3 years ago:

usually i'm not a fan of these things but this is pretty well done

registradus  said about 3 years ago:

fark I can't wait any longer

TimChuma  said about 3 years ago:

Will try and get this.

mess&noise_is,lame.  said about 3 years ago:


MelonHCST  said about 3 years ago:

It's good

BlackCoffeeDuck  said about 3 years ago:

It's been so great having Dirty Three back with a new record, it's been too long. I've been listening to it the last week or so and it's amazing album and now I can't wait to see them live at the end of this week.

registradus  said about 3 years ago:

Fuck. I ordered the vinyl. And now my records player is broken. Fuck.

Jerm  said about 3 years ago:

Yeah my vinyl finally arrived today. Kind of assumed it would come with a download code- now short of a more portable option. Still, looking forward to finally giving it a listen.

monoceros  said about 3 years ago:

Not hard to find an illegal download. You own it now so you can download with a clear conscience.

Evilio  said about 3 years ago:

Didn't really dig it at first, but the more I listen to it, the more I'm liking it.

betamale  said about 3 years ago:

Yeah it's definitely a grower. At first I thought they may have finally jumped the shark by putting out what sounded like a bunch of random jam sessions...

The melodic core is still there, just a lot more buried than in previous work. Ashen Snow is sublime, definitely looking forward to seeing how the new material translates live.

SnoopDoug  said about 3 years ago:

Saw the show last night at The Astor (Perth). Awesome!

Evilio  said about 3 years ago:

Anyone know how long the set is on this tour?

Evilio  said about 3 years ago:

And how well does the new album translate live? Any new instruments thrown into the mix?

Randman478  said about 3 years ago:

Got to get rid of one ticket for the Castlemaine show on Sunday. PM me if you're interested.

Mess+Noise  said about 3 years ago:

Got any decent photos from the Dirty Three's show in Castlemaine last night? Email us at

untold/animals  said about 3 years ago:

Subject: Decent photos from the Ditty Three's show in Castleman

Hi Dungen,

Guest singer: Nick Chav

It was real good to see all the people I used to know from Melbs there.


steveholt  said about 3 years ago:

My photos from Castlemaine are iPhone garb but fuck it was a good show. Restless Waves a definite highlight. Interpretive dance during Sue's Last Ride not such a highlight. Jim White just amazes me every time I see him drum. Such a privilege to see them play.

Also picked up 'Ulterior Motives' which is a mini-album of radio sessions/demos/acoustic songs. Thanks to the mercy dude for the feee t-shirt too.

king-of-the-toilet  said about 3 years ago:

Were they selling tour shirts (and were they any good) and were they selling any vinyl (and how much was it if you remember) at the merch stand?

I have a budget.

steveholt  said about 3 years ago:

tees were thirty bucks. they were ok. didn't see any vinyl but all cds were $10

The_Tupelo_Flash  said about 3 years ago:

If anyone is interested Greville Records are selling signed copies (by Warren Ellis) of this album... both cd and vinyl.

He popped into the store when in Melbs and signed a bunch... still some left I hear.

The_Tupelo_Flash  said about 3 years ago:

...oh and vinyl was being sold at the merch stand in Melbourne last week - $30

king-of-the-toilet  said about 3 years ago:

Thanks a bunch guys, muchos appreciato.

geneclark70  said about 3 years ago:

So that seems to be continuing the grand tradition of overpricing vinyl at merch stands, given the new LP is on sale at other stores in Aust for 25 or 27 bucks. I like to give my money direct to bands via merch at gigs but some make it hard when you know they're cutting out the retailer but still charging more.

$10 each for the CDs is fair enough but.

The_Tupelo_Flash  said about 3 years ago:

I think the vinyl may have been $20 and not $30.

I can't remember!

Bring $30 just incase.

geneclark70  said about 3 years ago:

Cheers Tupelo, will wait and see then. My whinge still stands in most cases but. Bands - when on tour, sell your vinyl at fair prices!!!

registradus  said about 3 years ago:

That Castlemaine show was great. Perfect venue. Did they have merch setup? I forgot to look. Seeing them Opera House tomorrow!!!

ghostofbarry  said about 3 years ago:

I'm going to the Opera House too, can't wait! I've never seen a show there before.

registradus  said about 3 years ago:


geneclark70  said about 3 years ago:

I thought the show last night was pretty wonderful...anyone else agree? Warren was in particularly vocal form, the setlist was weighted to the new LP but with enough classics thrown in to balance things nicely.

Merch report: very fair pricing, good on you guys, with LPs $20, good quality shirts for $30, while CDs were really cheap. I bought that limited edition CD Ulterior Motives of demos and radio sessions for only $10, while the steal of the night was Live at Meredith CD for a fiver.

king-of-the-toilet  said about 3 years ago:

Yeah it was a great show. They were all in fine form. Christ that man can dance.

Merch was great. Got the Meredith disc and a shirt for $35. Bargain.

esquared  said about 3 years ago:

god damn, shouldve checked merch

great show

registradus  said about 3 years ago:

got the ulterior motives cd.
show itself was a bit of a disappointment for me. mix was WAY off. first few songs had basically zero violin. was better by the end, but still. expected the sound to be amazing considering it was the opera house and all. still enjoyed it, just nowhere near as much as Castlemaine. sound was way better there and I think Warren was in a better mood too. started to sound a bit tired.

registradus  said about 3 years ago:

oh and also at both shows people bought babies and left as soon as they started. warren had a long conversation (/argument) with the one at castlemaine. not sure what the word on the street is about dirty three but apparently people think they are an acoustic trio??? few walk outs at opera house too.

Lozenge  said about 3 years ago:

...bringing a baby to any gig, acoustic or not, is not a good idea at all.

geneclark70  said about 3 years ago:

Registradus, where were you sitting? The Concert Hall's acoustics are notoriously fickle with a few dead spots. The mix sounded great where I was (row J in the stalls).

I saw a few people leave too. I assumed they'd gotten their tix for free and just didn't value what they were seeing.

registradus  said about 3 years ago:

Can't remember what row I was. maybe P? About 10 rows from the front and slightly to the right? It was crap.

JasmineMart  said about 3 years ago:

Check out Mick Turner's Exhibition, before March 31st! Mart Gallery is extremely proud to present Mick Turner from Dirty Three. To coincide with Dirty Three's upcoming Australian tour there will be a travelling exhibition of guitarist Mick Turner artwork.

chrowens  said about 3 years ago:

Great video for Rising Below based on the album artwork.

Sunnyboyz  said about 2 years ago:

Wow. I'm having a pretty fucked time at the moment and decided to lay in a park with some random tunes on the iPod, on came furnace skies and blew my little fragile mind.

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  • 1.   Furnace Skies
  • 2.   Sometimes I Forget You've Gone
  • 3.   Moon on the Land
  • 4.   Rising Below
  • 5.   The Pier
  • 6.   Rain Song
  • 7.   That Was Was
  • 8.   Ashen Snow
  • 9.   You Greet Her Ghost
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