Dirty Three | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Guitarist Mick Turner, drummer Jim White, and violinist Warren Ellis have pursued a long list of sidelines--Ellis has been a Bad Seed since the mid-90s and has backed Ute Lemper, while Turner and White have recorded as the Tren Brothers and backed Cat Power's Chan Marshall--but there's no mistaking the sound they make when they work together as the Dirty Three. White and Turner reverse the usual relationship between their instruments: Turner's steady chords and muted, repetitive single-note lines can anchor a song the way a drumbeat would, freeing White to play more decoratively, to follow the melody or indulge in understated coloration. And Ellis makes his violin a lead voice, hacking out distorted blasts and articulating exquisitely detailed melodies with equally extravagant emotion; in concert he's the band's personality, staggering back and forth while he plays and bantering between songs about his hypothetical exploits with has-been rock stars. The Australian trio's volatile chemistry is hard to bottle--they've never been as exciting on record as they are live, and their 1998 disc, Ocean Songs (Touch and Go), was a downright snooze. But the new Whatever You Love, You Are succeeds because it doesn't even try to duplicate their onstage abandon. Instead the focus is on overdubbed layers of violin and percussion and quieter, more concise arrangements--although for the Dirty Three, "concise" is always a relative term. Whatever's six songs clock in at just over 48 minutes, but in concert the band can get lost in a single tune for almost half an hour. Disaster Action Team and Storm and Stress open. Friday, 10 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee; 773-489-3160.

Bill Meyer

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