Music: Dirty Three, Cargo

Back with a new album going back to their old sound, the Dirty Three play a beautiful and vitriolic show at Cargo

Kathryn Bromwich

warren ellisFrom their last album Cinder (2005), which got as close to 3-minute pop songs as the Dirty Three have ever been, with Toward the Low Sun the trio have returned to the more improvised and unstructured sound of their earlier work. Gentle and seemingly aimless strumming is interrupted by violin melodies and riffs, giving it a staccato quality that is sometimes almost jazz-like. The angrily buzzing feedback, however, gives the album a dark and disconcerting undertone. The tunes are less catchy than we’ve been used to in the last few records, and even upon repeated listens it’s a strangely amorphous kind of sound, interspersed with striking moments of beauty that are all the more rewarding for their unexpected appearance. On record, the full impact of the album is not immediately apparent, but in the flesh the Dirty Three bring it to life.

Cargo is an unusually trendy venue for the band. Their last appearance in London was at the Southbank, and they can often be found at festivals such as I’ll Be Your Mirror or All Tomorrow’s Parties. Tonight’s show is organised by ATP, and the small venue provides an intimate setting for the gig — so intimate it sold out in minutes. There is no support act, and Warren Ellis, Mick Turner and Jim White waltz on to the stage with swagger. The trio play a number of songs from Toward the Low Sun, and a few well-chosen gems from their back catalogue. The two-hour gig averages out at a satisfying 11 minutes for each song or, rather, for each elemental soundscape. Ellis and White stare intently into each other’s eyes, while Turner strums along, Thurston Moore-esque.

Ellis is wearing a smart suit jacket, which he soon removes to reveal a silk purple shirt with pink polka dots, several buttons open and chains of gold bling adorning his chest (some great photos here). Thankfully, he is refusing to grow old gracefully, much like a certain friend of his, and this is great news. His repeated quips at Bono and usually-successful attempts at humour, coupled with high kicks, screams and manic dancing, make for a hilarious and energetic spectacle. Nevertheless, the music is taken seriously: the band’s scratchy elegance is on full display, and the sound is as shambolic and raw as ever.

Setlist

Rain Song
Furnace Skies
Sometimes I Forget You’ve Gone
Some Summers They Drop Like Flys
The Pier
Rising Below
Everything’s Fucked
Sea Above, Sky Below
The Zither Player
Ashen Snow

Encore:
Sue’s Last Ride

– Cargo, 7 June 2012

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