I was playing this CD when a friend came to pick me up to go
out for dinner. She stopped, listened, and said, "Which Dirty
Three album is this?"
"Um," i replied around pulling on boots, "it's actually Bonnevill."
"Well, it's Mick Turner, the guitarist in The Dirty Three with
... some girl."
"Who plays the violin?"
I picked up the CD case to check. "The girl. Her name is Jessica
Billey. I don't know anything else about her."
"So this is The Dirty Three with a slight lineup change?"
"Well, they don't have the drummer here," i say, suddenly all
defensive. "And she plays piano on one track...."
"But basically it's The Dirty Three."
I paused for a minute. "Yeah, i guess so," i conceed. "Let's
go -- i'm starving."
This dialog really made me re-evaluate this CD. You see, i
got it about two weeks ago and have listened to it a lot since
then, as i have a tendency to do with any Dirty Three release.
And yet, i never realized that it sounds almost exactly like
The Dirty Three without the drummer.
Which, now that i think about it, was not what i was expecting.
I was expecting ... something more. Something different. A re-interpretation
of the light guitar and violin sound. Anything.
What i got was an album to fill in the time until The Dirty
Three release their next album. And now that i think about it,
that's kinda disappointing. I mean, i LOVE this sound. Who knew
that passionately played violin and light guitarwork could be
so beautiful together? Pelican continues that
general trend. It is, quite simply, beautiful music. Stunningly
so at times.
Now that i have realized that i wanted something different,
i have been able to detect a few differences between Bonnevill
and The Dirty Three. First of all, Jessica Billey is a very
good violinist, but she doesn't play with quite the same level
of insane emotiveness that Warren Ellis does. Nor does she use
the same amount of echo and chorus on her violin -- the instrument,
here, is relatively unmodified. It's a slight difference, one
that an ear not well-trained in the intracies of The Dirty Three
might very well miss.
Plus, Mick Turner plays, well, he plays a little sloppier in
Bonnevill. It's like he had not fully finished the songs, and
some of what he plays was improvised in the studio. His guitar
playing has a vaguely "jamming" feel to it. Heck, for all i
know Ms. Billey might be jamming out as well on the violin.
I have never heard a "jam" with a violin, so i wouldn't recognize
it if it bit me.
Anyway, it all sounds good, but i associate a certain degree
of precision with The Dirty Three. Pelican seems
looser than any of their releases.
That said, i think it's a really solid album. It's quite listenable,
and as i have previously stated, really beautiful and sweeping
music. However, if you don't like The Dirty Three, this is not
going to do anything for you.
If you are already a fan -- then grab this, you'll love it.
If you are not a fan but really enjoy introspective melodic
music, then give this a chance. I would recommend Whatever
You Love, You Are by The Dirty Three first, but
this could serve as a fine introduction to this general sound.
One last thing that i should mention: this is Volume 3 of Bella
Unions's Series Seven. The other two release so far are by Rothko
and Gwei-lo. So far, this series
has been quite interesting. Let's hope that Bella Union keeps
up this level of quality.