Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Album of the Week: Dirty Three- Ocean Songs

The apartment complex I recently moved into is build around an artificial lake of sorts. Already I find myself going out there at night to stare at the water, at the way the lights seem to melt into it, thinking about whatever is keeping me awake. I try not to put stock into the fact that I love the water because I'm an Aquarius but maybe there's something to it. I've always loved swimming pools, baths/showers, liquids in general. I never failed to miss Shark Week as a kid; I love sea food. Ironically, though, I never learned how to swim. Anyway, I've had water on the brain lately, so it's only natural I finally got around to Ocean Songs by Dirty Three, a beautiful, semi-conceptual ode to the seas. As with other aquatic phenomena, I love it to death.

A trio of percussion, guitar, and violin, you may wonder how the Dirty Three could craft a fitting oceanic album. Any fan of film soundtracks, jazz, or instrumental music in general can tell you that not having vocals to worry about often makes for the best 'tribute' music, whether it be Miles Davis's Sketches Of Spain or Matmos's A Chance To Cut Is A Chance To Cure. All three members of the Dirty Three use their instruments to the best textural, melodic, and rhythmic effect, creating music that, yes, ebbs and flows like the tides. The album's most astonishing and accomplished songs--'Authentic Celestial Music' and 'Deep Waters'--are also by far its longest, giving the listener the feel of an epic journey across the water with storms, wind, clear skies, and sun all thrown in.

The Dirty Three don't quite fit into the two genres I would associate them with, post-rock and slowcore, because they aren't experimental enough for the former and aren't always slow and somber enough for the latter. I guess I could justa call them "true originals." Even taken separately, none of the members sound much like other, similar bands. Jim White uses the entire range of his drum kit to full effect not unlike a jazz musician, rolling and accenting but always keeping the beat. Mick Turner's guitar lines are always seemingly afloat, lagging behind or rushing forth unexpectedly; short two or three note lines give way to rhythmic chording or patient melodies. And Warren Ellis's violin soars above it all like a seagull, at other times whipping the water into a frenzy with distortion and rapid swells. All of their albums bear the same elements that are at play on Ocean Songs, but given the emphasis on a consistent 'feel' and 'theme', the album comes off as their best and most focused.

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