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Dirty Three - Cinder CD (album) cover


Dirty Three


Post Rock/Math rock

2.48 | 8 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
2 stars Downbeat, melancholy, violin soaked ambience that is difficult to adjust to.

Cinder by Dirty Three came to my attention because I am Australian and there are so few prog bands from my great local island that I feel it a duty to access, wherever I can, anything progressive from Australia. The problem is I rarely come across anything as innovative as, say, Dream Theater (USA) or Riverside (Poland) or PFM (Italy), instead the music tends to focus on a dreamy soft lulling melancholia which is simply not for my tastes. So it is with trepidation that I approach this review on a local band. First of all the music is definitive post rock and I am definitely not into this subgenre. I find it tiresome and lacking in many areas. The rock instrumentation for non-rock purposes on this album focusses on the violin as the primary instrument and it has its place in many bands I believe, namely VDGG and Comus, however in this case the Dirty Three utilise the violin as a very sleepy addition, rather than playing it aggressively. There are no riffs to speak off of course in this genre but the music is quite forgettable as a result. It meanders along and you need more patience to receive it than the average Godspeed You! Black Emperor album.

The haunting ambience on such tracks as 'Cinders' is pleasant enough, with very slow chord changes and erratic jazzy drumming, but once again it is likely to send you to sleep. The repetition of the chords and the slowness of the music is there to entrance, it is obvious, but I still cannot get into this style at all. The first 5 tracks are so forgettable I cannot even recall one note, however I gave this a chance and kept listening despite my sudden urge to throw on some Riverside or VDGG.

On the first few tracks of the album, there are no full on up-tempo tracks to balance the slow pace, although some of the drumming is infectious such as the heavy beat on 'Doris', perhaps the heaviest track on "Cinder". The guitar jangles and crashes on this track, using pretty much one note for a while and there are the additions of bagpipes by Mark Soul, giving it a unique, uplifting feel. It is certainly a highlight among a plethora of mediocrity in the first 6 tracks.

Thankfully it actually gets better after a very poor start. The violins are overlayed and aggressive on the longest track on the album 'Flutter'. The drums are sporadic and improvised on this as a two note structure provides some tension and release. Another highlight due to its strange structure, after a while it settles into a clean guitar and moaning violin duet. The drums slow as if exhausted. There is an ominous unsettling feel about the music. After a slow start, it seems the album actually gets better as you get deeper into it. The repetition grows on you and the violin is a solid contributor to the ambience.

'The Zither Player' is, yes a track based on zither, giving it a foreign sound, perhaps Greek in flavour. It is a solid diversion from the ambience and presents a traditional folk or Gypsy violin sound. It grows on you on each listen and breaks up the slow pace very well. I started to like the album at this point.

'It happened' is a short tune with a duel clean guitar and moderate drum beat. The violin is absent and al the better for it at this stage. It is a quiet track and just flows along without any lead breaks, each instrument complimenting one another with deceptively simple chords.

'Great Waves' begins with a simple guitar picking and then Chan Marshall sings in a Celtic style the lyrics that are quite heartfelt and sad; "giving up, it's over, the world's wait is over... our bodies are exploding as the sky spews though our mouths..." An intriguing song and surprising with the sudden vocals, a first for Dirty Three and a very good addition too. I thought it was Bjork for a second and had to check the liner notes, it sounds like her at times. Once again a very good track that shines among the greyness.

The violins return in a soft balladic track, 'Dream Evie'. This is a two chord structure with some interesting sections but reminds me of the poor quality opening tracks too much to enjoy it.

A strange drum method moves the next track along, with some very slow violin and guitar. 'Too soon too late' is OK but once again will send you to sleep. Perhaps this is best played at night for insomniacs, I admit I feel sleepy when I hear it. The same goes for 'This Night' that is another dreamy slow ambient piece that does not peak my interest.

The strange atmospheric 'Rain On' has some innovative violin with staccato flourishes and shades of light and dark. The drums accompany the jagged shapes and it is another highlight for me.

'Ember' features violin, guitar and wire brushed rubbing on the skins. It feels as rainy as the previous track. I like the guitars on this in particular, the sad violin works well and it tends to build from a depressing atmosphere to an uplifting one.

'Feral' is another standout track sung beautifully by Sally Timms, who in fact does not use lyrics but 'ahs' and 'oohs' to great effect. The violin and piano play very creatively together and an unusual time signature shatters the ambience. It is a sad atmosphere that is created but still somehow is uplifting with Timms' clear vocalisations.

'Last dance' has more wire brush and tapping without a definitive beat, but the slow pace suits the guitar twangs. The minimalist feel is haunting and almost free form piano holds the atonal melody together. This is quite an experimental track that does not rely on a beat or a particular instrument, rather every instrument creates an overall style. This did feel like a GY!BE style due to the non reliance on rhythm and opposition of instruments.

The last track 'In Fall' begins with a soft gentle guitar and slow violins, with wire brushes caressing the drums. The music has really slowed to a halt as it if knows it will be ending soon. The patient non rhythmic free form is a major component again, but this track does have some intriguing guitar passages. This is some of the slowest music I have ever heard and once again I cannot help but to compare it with some of GY!BE's style for this reason.

OK, so I made it to the end of the album, but it was a weary slog, apart from the middle section with some innovative intriguing sections to speak of. The music is definitively instrumental apart from the addition of some pleasant vocals on two tracks, and these are both so good one wonders why there are not more like this. The vocals break up the hyper ambience and send the music into new more pleasant directions. However this album is sad, melancholy, slow and dreary for the most part. This may appeal to those who want to wallow in a sad dreamy state in their music, but I prefer more upbeat music with instrumental breaks and lyrics, not this background music.

I can give this 2 stars at least for the standout tracks.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 2/5 |


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