The effects of nonstop touring are palpable on the Dirty Three’s new album, Horse Stories (Touch and Go). In almost a solid year of performing, violinist Warren Ellis, guitarist Mick Turner, and drummer Jim White have struck a balance among the hypnotic grace, gorgeous lyricism, and tumultuous peaks that characterize their work. While they’ve retained the ability to descend into unhinged chaos, they’ve become a much tighter and more intuitive unit, and they’re at their best when they exercise restraint. (In fact, the album’s primary problem is a tendency to wind up too many tunes with a hard-rocking climax; by its third consecutive employment, the tactic is ineffectual.) The simple repetition of the Dirty Three’s instrumental balladry transports the trancelike character of east African acoustic music to the Scottish Highlands without ever sounding beholden to either tradition. White and Turner, whose guitar playing now shimmers with an almost jazzlike clarity, create loose, gentle structures for Ellis to navigate, and within them his solos flow effortlessly, suggesting seemingly bottomless reserves of melodic ideas. Live the Dirty Three are a more raucous prospect; they convey plenty of rock energy, but it’s often at the expense of the music’s subtle beauty. Still, there’s no one quite like them. Arcwelder and Flour open. Saturday, 10 PM, Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln; 525-6620.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Brad Miller.