Essential New Music: Dirty Three’s “Love Changes Everything”

Love Changes Everything. Who is the recipient of that titular sentiment, and who is doing the loving? Given that this is the first Dirty Three album in 12 years, one might easily have supposed that love might have been lost between guitarist Mick Turner, drummer Jim White and violinist/violist/keyboardist/onstage raconteur Warren Ellis. But love plus time has a way of smoothing over the rough spots, so maybe the title explains the record’s necessity.

For nothing short of necessity would justify resumption of action. They’ve all found other things to do. Turner has released a handful of solo and collaborative records and, most recently, joined with singer Helen Franzmann in Mess Esque. White has unleashed the charisma he’d previously kept under wraps in Xylouris White, embraced the drift with Marisa Anderson and made every band that’s hired him sound less obvious and much better. And Ellis has been Nick Cave’s righthand man, both in the Bad Seeds and as his soundtracking partner for numerous films. There’s no external force driving the Dirty Three together; it had to come from within.

That internal gravity is present throughout this six-part, album-long suite. On “Love Changes Everything I,” it’s the force that draws them to sound instantly like themselves as they lurch out of a wash of guitar noise and into motion. Turner’s blues-adjacent chords churn just this side of a boil, Ellis bows a heraldic line, and White’s perambulating beats fill the space between them with shape, propulsion and presence. But it’s also what holds them together as they depart from their template on the following track. “Love Changes Everything II” is built around Ellis’s wistful piano, buffeted by orchestral samples and underscored by the other two musicians’ emotionally syntonic accompaniment. This reverie flows directly into the melancholy ether of “Love Changes Everything III,” which drifts on sighing fiddle loops. In concert, the Dirty Three has been known to rage at length; here, the trio captures the quiet eye of its storm.

As the album progresses, the music surges, squalls and subsides again. When it draws away from the ensemble’s trademarked sound, it still retains elements of the Dirty Three’s widescreen, unabashedly emotional feel. Simultaneously true and new, Love Changes Everything is a record that needs to be. [Drag City]

—Bill Meyer