Ocean Songs by Dirty Three (Review)

Dirty Three play a blend of swampy yet cliché-less blues, minimalist jazz, and scaled down chamber music.
Ocean Songs - Dirty Three

The Dirty Three feature one of the most freeing aspects of ’90s indie rock, the option of NOT singing. Without an obvious choice of who’s the most talented singer, many bands add vocals by seeming default, and its often to their detriment. Dirty Three never make you wish someone would open their mouth.

Their wordless mini-tragedies, located between swampy yet cliché-less blues, minimalist jazz, and scaled down chamber music, bring on a dichotomy of empathy and fear of memory (cheer up, I’ll explain that in a sec.). When Warren Ellis (no, not the writer for Vertigo’s Transmetropolitan) sends his violin bow ceiling-ward, there’s always the possibility he can bring visions of ghosts done wrong. When the bow comes back down, you wonder if he isn’t mining some motherlode of universal genetic sadness.

What that all means is its great music to listen to when you’re mourning, or just in a good 3 beer sulk. (Assuming you’re of the type that drinks responsibly and gets more thoughtful with drink, rather than just mean.) It also means that sometimes what the Dirty Three can make you think of is a bit too close to home.

The sheer tangibility of these sounds is a pure wonder. Mick Turner’s guitar is almost like some aural daguerreotype (think images of the Civil War), or if it was cloth, pillow tacking. Jim White’s drumming is indeed oceanic, rolling softly and crashing like a lazy tide. The interplay of this group is a marvel, they fall in and out of sync with each other, and make you wish they had tape rolling every time they practice. The songs, at least to me, suggest new possibilities and connections every time they’re played.

Written by Pearson Greer.

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