After acquiring quite a collection of releases by the Dirty Three, I began to wonder just how long they could continue to create their stirring instrumental music before running out of ideas. Over the course of 5 albums, numerous EPs and several collaborations, they seemed to charm me every time, changing the formula just enough to keep me interested and invigorated by their (one the surface) simple construction. After all, there are a lot of bands who do so much less with a lot more than three people and as many instruments, yet the Dirty Three really have been an anomaly, cranking out album after album of affecting music using what most would consider to be a rather bare-bones setup.
She Has No Strings Apollo is the 6th full-length album for the group, and as much as I'd like to admit otherwise, the group seems to have hit a slight stumbling block. Don't get me wrong, this album would still be a high point for a lot of artists, but given the track record of the group, it doesn't quite stand up to the measuring pole as high.
It's definitely not for lack of trying, either. "Alice Wading" opens the album with a rather ramshackle feel as the violin of Warren Ellis, the guitar of Mick Turner, and the drums of Jim White all seem to sway back and forth in a drunken waltz before finally locking into step. As the track progresses, it winds tighter and tighter, never reaching the furious energy of something from Horse Stories, but keeping a nice focuses intensity that lets off little sparks at the end as Ellis drops bursts of screeches from his violin. "She Has No Strings" works some of the same shifting dynamics, and again stretches things out to over 8 minutes, leaving a few saggy spots in the wake.
"Long Way To Go With No Punch" is pretty enough, but with the repeated piano flutters and the only real change being slight shifts in the violin, it feels more like the sketch of a track than something fully developed. Arriving in the middle of the disc, "No Stranger Than That" again breaks things out nicely as Ellis alternately plucks and bows his violin in slight syncopation with White before the trio locks into a glorious closing crescendo.
"She Lifted The Net" is another super-loose track with an improvised sort of feel, and while it provides a short breather, it feels more like it should be the truncated beginning or end of a track. "Rude (And Then Some Slight Return" closes things out in fine form, drifting lazily into what feels like it's going to be a thunderous moment before pulling back at the last moment. When the slowly building cacophonous closing finally arrives (with super-gritty distortion on White's guitar), the slow teases only make it more worthwhile. As mentioned above, it's not a bad album, but it has a couple slightly weaker tracks from a group who's usually hitting on all cylinders all the time. More nautical-themed instrumental goodness from down-under.