Review Summary: ‘It is not enough for a man to know how to ride; he must know how to fall’ – Mexican proverb
Sometimes a solitary instigating word is all that’s needed for that last cut of the jigsaw to fall into place. The word is a spark, the subject the fuse, and the final awareness the explosion. In the case of Dirty Three, merely the title they gift their unique take on post-rock is enough to prompt a thousand thoughts of the four legged beasts, imagery that sees them roaming as they please over scores of landscapes; the songs of Horse Stories
are each personalized by their own terrain. And what better a metaphor for the way we meander, love and feel our way through life than the horse – extremely headstrong creatures, but with limbs susceptible to snapping, simply surviving on the leash of a bigger picture. Through the eyes of the horse, nothing is bloated, nothing is more than it should be, and every surrounding thing is just enough for their tales to flow through from beginning, to middle, to end. This is exactly how the album runs, Dirty Three’s wordless sounds are rich and vivid enough to encapsulate anecdotes that journey through the spectrum of human emotion, and love or lack thereof in particular.
As your senses are guided and glided through each track, distinctive tones growing in familiarity, it soon becomes apparent that the sound of Dirty Three is about as void of pretence as a homeless beggar – the music is undeniably honest
. There is no deceit in the folk-like fields of nostalgia in “Sue’s Last Ride”, and no charade showcased in “Red”’s blundering onslaught of jolting distortion. But with honesty comes empathy. The simple instrumentation of the group, the violin, guitar, and small drum kit sound so battered, so beaten, that every note is expressed with a penetrating stab. Warren Ellis’ violin in particular constantly screeches wonderful yet searing melodies throughout its stay at the forefront of tracks like “Hope”. Its intensity is ferocious, despite the calming sentiment of the track, building to an incredibly warming double-stopped melody, quite a contrast to its lonely counterparts. “Hope” is just one of the many circumstances that proves how well these three musicians can play off each other, and how well their own unique sounds glue together.
The song structures are usually simple, though this is a trait strongly disguised by the airy and very natural playing style of the group. Regardless of this, each piece progresses comfortably with a sense of direction, for example “Warren’s Lament”, which builds to eventually gallop along as if it had come straight out of an old western, only to stagger along after its climax into a beautiful, uncontainable tremble, where the drums pound, and the title’s Warren Ellis bleeds his violin dry of tender notes. Jim White’s work behind the kit is typically conserved and passive, a perfect and undemanding compliment to the washed-up pieces, however moments like in this crescendo and the lonely build up of “I Remember A Time When Once You Used To Love Me”, are times of bursting tension, triumphantly exploding, tearing down the dam. The guitarist Mick Turner however, consistently restrains his playing, adding beautifully subtle arpeggios to the backdrop of the mix – and what a skill to have. It’s incredibly easy to get ‘carried away’ with a song so much so that it steers off track, especially in a genre like post-rock, however Turner’s rightly executed delicacies paint their fine art underneath the formal melodies, like guiding stars if you will. Being simply a three-piece, the necessity in the raw timbre of each instrument is unparalleled, a vital inclusion and amplifier of the deep emotions Dirty Three provoke. Horse Stories
is perhaps the sound of love. Horse Stories
is perhaps the sound of regret. Horse Stories
is perhaps the sound of fading away.