On its first album in seven years, Toward the Low Sun, Australian trio Dirty Three proves that it can still make the descent to a gentler passage as suspenseful as the break into a louder one.
Drummer Jim White, guitarist Mick Turner and violin/viola player Warren Ellis have always shared less with other instrumental rockers than with, say, Minutemen: three distinct approaches to tone and phrasing, finding even greater strength in a group setting. Not that the dynamics are ever cliché hush-and-bust post-rock: Opening track "Furnace Skies" worriedly repeats a sort of fast, distorted bass line while the band piles on, not so much exploding as burrowing into itself.
White, more resourceful with a drum kit than most guitar players would be with a barge of pedals, swirls around the beat and a piano on "Sometimes I Forget You've Gone." This album's not short on his tumultuous shaping, but he knows when to keep it steady, too, quietly coaxing the lovely accordion of "Moon on the Land."
Likewise, Ellis sometimes hints at the yearning and shrieks of fury he poured into 1996's Horse Stories, especially on "Rising Below" and "That Was Was." But he favors a more patient and tension-building approach, as on closing track "You Greet Her Ghost." In fact, most tracks on Toward the Low Sun end not with a crash but with soft resolutions, and that might be the surest sign of how confidently Dirty Three has returned to recording.