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The Big Takeover Issue #92
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Dirty Three-Toward the Low Sun (Drag City)

17 February 2012

It’s funny what memory does to a listener. It’s been seven years since the last Dirty Three album, Cinder; the trio had, for the most part, been engulfed by Nick Cave, where they grew from collaborators to becoming an integral part of his many projects. Not only did they expand his sound, they helped Cave to become a masterful score composer—witness the wonderful The Road and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. With Cave keeping them busy, for some, those superb scores were as close to the Dirty Three sound as we would get. A little downtime lead to Towards the Low Sun, and on first listen, one thinks…“did they ever sound this dirty?” Their previous records were sad, mournful, and widescreen, but their albums always contained a rawness that bubbled under the surface. Toward the Low Sun brings that rawness to the front; opening “Furnace Skies” has an electric sound that makes you think that the trio is picking up where the now-deceased Grinderman left off. Raw and raucous, it’s an instant shock-treatment that outdoes anything on Cinder.

The melancholy elements haven’t disappeared, but they’re not as obvious on Toward the Low Sun. Instead, what is found here is a record that sounds like a hot day in the desert—or, considering their status as soundtrack composers, a record that sounds like a movie about spending a hot day in the desert. Though it’s not as prominent as previous Dirty Three records, Warren Ellis’ woeful violin, as heard on “Rain Song” and “You Greet Her Ghost,” still rings through, haunting, unforgettable. And it’s clear that their time with Cave has been influential; “Ashen Snow” is about as pretty as you’ll find on any of the Bad Seeds records of the last decade.

One can’t fault Toward the Low Sun too much; it’s been years since they were last around, and though they haven’t been active together, it’s good to know that there’s still a magical spark at play between the trio.