2005 – Touch And Go Records
The seventh album from Australian folk-rock trio Dirty Three is a languishingly spellbinding journey through an instrumental world of mood swings, riotous dancing, and lowdown lugubriousness. Beginning with the slow build of Ever Since all the way through to the closing In Fall the listener is treated to a whole raft of sublimely expressive music wrenched forth from the bowels of Mick Turner’s guitar, from the soft lashings of Jim White’s drums, and from the howling of Warren Ellis’s violin.
Every track on this record really is just beautiful with their languid strolling and their fever pitch crescendos. I mean, there is just something so wonderful in the ethereal way in which this trio approach their playing; nothing is rushed, nothing is overtly structured, and nothing is superfluous. Every note is left to linger just long enough to soak the palette before it disappears and is replaced with a fresh drop of highly coloured sound, and when this band get to rocking, such as on the growling Sad Sexy or on the wildly energetic Doris, they really get to rocking.
This said, at nineteen tracks Cinder does have a tendency to drag on a bit and get more than a little self indulgent at times. It’s not really because any of the tracks are bad at all in themselves, it’s more that this record is just so demanding of the listener. I mean, at first listen one might feel that this record, as beautiful as it is, would form the perfect background for a romantic dinner or perhaps a night curled up with a good book, but as the album progressed one quickly realizes that Dirty Three’s music has a way of grabbing your attention and forcing you to pay it a great deal of mind. It really is somewhat invasive; you either have to give it everything you’ve got or let it remain silent, and around the twenty minute mark of this seventy minute tracklist this can all get a bit draining. Sometimes I don’t want to have to think and this album forces me to do just that, which is often just more than I’m willing to commit.
I do, however, have to give an honourable mention to the few tracks on Cinder that contain vocals, as they break up this routine of intellectual post-rock folk and give the record a much needed injection of accessibility. I’m not saying that a track like Great Waves is anything resembling a pop song (it’s not by any stretch of the imagination), but it is constructed along much more conventional lines than many of the other tracks on the album which creates some welcome breathing space for the listener. Also, Chan Marshall of Cat Power fame provides such a magnificently delicate performance on this track that it’s rather hard to pass by.
All in all I have to say that Cinder is a very, very good record. Each track is just so intricately and lovingly composed that one can’t but think they’re great, and there is just such a good scope of music throughout the album with each track appearing from a completely new angle that it’s hard to find much of a downside with it. That being said, the album as whole has a tendency to become tedious even if each individual track is as wonderful as they all are, which makes the record as a complete piece of art just slightly too heavy to actually get fully into.
I’m sure there are the right moments when this is the perfect album to put on and get yourself lost in, but, all the same, there are just too many other moments when Cinder will come across as oppressive and overly complicated. Perhaps if they band spent a little more with their rockier side rather than getting too tangled in their intricate sound-scapes I’d be able to stomach the whole thing a bit better, but on this album they haven’t and so I have to say that Cinder is not a masterpiece. It is good, very good in fact, perhaps even great, but not a masterpiece.
And here is Doris, one of the more energetic yet still wonderfully composed tracks from Cinder.