While its previous album, Ocean Songs, offered melodies that revealed a relaxed side to this erratic and emotive instrumental trio, the fantastic new effort by Dirty Three is the culmination of the group's entire five-album output. Where the Australian group's last album loosened the reins, its predecessor, Horse Stories, was a rambunctious yet beautifully composed collection of songs. Instead of repeating either effort, Whatever You Love, You Are shows the restrained sounds of drummer Jim White and guitarist Mick Turner almost playing, er, second fiddle to charismatic and clever violinist Warren Ellis. White and Turner have always served double duty, both as an amazing rhythm section and a melodic counterpart to the squeal and coo of Ellis' violin. But while some of Dirty Three's more frenzied moments are duly missed herein, the group's latest album shows the veteran trio at the peak of its songcraft.
Ellis seems to have fallen in love with his delay pedal -- nearly every song features segments of swooping and swooning effect-generated violin lines. The nearly 14-minute epic "I Offered It Up to the Stars and the Night Sky" begins with a morass of looped strings, as Ellis builds each line atop the next with the aid of his effects box. The trio then eases into a slow build of a glorious melody, until Ellis' strings leap into screaming screeches. Turner's twanging guitar almost begrudgingly joins in the epiphany while White lays back to hold the sturdy beat. Interestingly, the combination works at creating the dynamic impact the group has aimed for from its beginning.
On "Stellar," Ellis also doubles the tension and rhythmic impulses of the group's noisier efforts, while White and Turner open up the sound with counterpoint, staggering lines. The effect is much more powerful than the rote accelerating crescendo endings that characterized Dirty Three's earlier efforts. The closer, "Lullaby for Christie," caps the album off beautifully with a delicate melody interwoven between guitar and violin, and brings Whatever You Love, You Are to an understated, yet poignant close. Dirty Three's members have never sounded more perfect together.