Review Summary: Australian post-rock trio create their most varied, eclectic and song-oriented record to date with stunning results.Cinder
is the seventh album from the Melbourne post-rock trio Dirty Three
. A supergroup of sorts, band member Warren Ellis is both a dominant member of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
and well known for his work with film scores (most notably The Proposition
). Mick Turner and Jim White have featured on the records of Cat Power
and Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
Warren Ellis - Violin, Viola, Mandolin, Bouzouki, Piano
Mick Turner - Guitar, Organ, Bass
Jim White - Drums
Where the majority of post-rock groups rely on crushing dynamics and seemingly endless repetition to present their ideas, Melbourne's Dirty Three take a somewhat different approach on Cinder
, their seventh album since their formation in 1992. In the past, their unique instrumentation has almost always consisted solely of Ellis' violin, Turner's guitar and White's drums. Cinder
sees the band expanding their instrumentation significantly to include (among others) mandolin, piano, bouzouki and organ. In addition to this, Cinder
features guests in the form of Chan Marshall (best known for her solo project Cat Power) who contributes lyrics and vocals to "Great Waves", Sally Timms (of the Mekons
) who contributes vocals to "Feral" and Mark Soul who plays bagpipes on "Doris". Also in contrast to previous records, Cinder
was not recorded live in a studio, but rather pieced together by each member seperately. With all of the aforementioned changes, the Dirty Three have created what is undoubtedly their most eclectic album yet. A 70 minute, 19 song affair, Cinder
is also one of the band's longest records to date. Unlike previous albums, Cinder
's 19 are all fairly conventional in length, with most songs clocking in under 4 minutes. And so despite being a 19 song beast, Cinder
is also the band's most accessible record yet.
Unlike many of the Dirty Three's post-rock peers, Cinder
focuses on melody above all else rather than riffs, atmosphere or dynamics. The melodies present on this album sound like they come straight from Australian folk songs, an influence that can be seen in Warren Ellis' work with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, as well as his recent work on the score forThe Proposition
(the Australian film written by Nick Cave). Indeed, the lengths of the songs also help them to be more like folk songs than post-rock epics.
The Dirty Three has always centred around Ellis' abrupt yet beautiful violin playing. On previous records, his playing often been violent and almost always intense. Cinder
, however, sees the band taking a more calm approach to their music. That's not to say that the intensity is gone; "Doris" is a wonderfully lively track while "Flutter" is messy, noisy and extremely pretty. "Ever Since" and "Last Dance", on the other hand, display a subtlety that very few other bands in the post-rock genre are capable of. Chan Marshall's vocals and lyrics are augmented superbly by a number of different instruments on "Great Waves" and Sally Timms' wordless vocals blend in beautifully with the rest of the instruments in "Feral". Finally, "She Passed Through" is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful songs the trio have ever written. The instruments are balanced perfectly with the guitar riff giving way to a shimmering organ half way through that backs up Ellis' gorgeous violin melody.
With so many different ideas, instruments and moods, it would be easy for Cinder
to become a mess with little cohesion. Thankfully, quite the opposite is true; Cinder
flows from one track to the next perfectly, its 70 minutes seeming more like 40. With a band as consistent as the Dirty Three, it's no surprise that Cinder
is such a great record. The changes that are seen throughout help the band to avoid repeating themselves while leaving most of their trademarks intact. Considering the rest of the Dirty Three's oeuvre, it's hard to say whether Cinder
ranks as their best record or not, but it is the kind of quality that fans of the band should be used to by now. A varied, eclectic and hopelessly beautiful album.
Good range of instruments
The songs with vocals work extremely well
One or two substandard tracks
She Passed Through
Final Rating: 4.5/5