“Ocean Songs,” first released by the Australian trio Dirty Three in distant 1997, is the fourth major album of this band, and in many ways a turnaround in their musical legacy. Defining the genre in which this band plays would be an ungrateful and unnecessary. Known for magnificently combining still waters with boiling whirlwinds (of course metaphorically), Dirty Three seemed to have decided to slow down a little bit for this album, and transmute their bursting energy in seemingly calm instrumental flows. “Ocean Songs” may seem like a relaxing album, but it’s akin to the deceptive calm of the Pacific Ocean. Nevertheless, in 2010, this album was included in the list of 100 best Australian albums, though personally I would include it in the world’s top 100 list.
So, what do we have? We have 10 tracks—a bit more than 60 minutes. The title of each song is somehow related to water, seas, oceans, skies above them, or shores around them. The titles of the tracks are already pure poetry—read them out loud to see why:
- The Restless Waves
- Distant Shore
- Authentic Celestial Music
- Backwards Voyager
- Last Horse on the Sand
- Sea Above, Sky Below
- Black Tide
- Deep Waters
- Ends of the Earth
With no vocals, the entirely instrumental “Ocean Songs” conveys a wide range of emotions with violin, guitar, drums, and sometimes piano and harmonium. This is not even music—it’s more like a flow of naturally matching sounds, whose overall shape is sometimes mysterious, or sometimes sincerely open in melody. You may have the same feeling if you sit by a lake at dusk; cicadas, whispering grasses, and splashing water would also shape out a melody.
What I liked most of all about the album is it’s hidden energy. In the beginning of this review, I wrote about how Dirty Three’s usual boiling energy has been transmuted to a calm flow in this album. It is true; however, underneath this calm you can still see its origin, its true source. It’s like when a huge, strong man holds his tiny child in his arms for the first time… restrained force, I’d say.
The album is perfect for the end of November. Restless Waves, Distant Shores, and Black Tide are a 100% match for melancholic evenings spent in an old armchair, with a glass of wine, and an unfinished book. Other songs on the album are no worse than these. It seems like Dirty Three never fails expectations. Bravo!