Record Time

Low & Dirty's Three in the Fishtank
Low & Dirty's Three in the Fishtank

Low & Dirty Three
In The Fishtank

The formula for Konkurrent records’ In The Fishtank series is simple: find one or two respected indie bands, commission them for a spontaneous recording session over a couple of days, and release the results on CD.

Voila—simple music, captured with the initial creative impulse intact.

For the series’ latest installment, Konkurrent invited Duluth, Minn. slow-core veterans Low into their in-house studio in Holland. Low, in turn, asked Australia’s Dirty Three— their friends and fellow purveyors of all things melancholy— to record with them.

Now, neither Low nor Dirty Three are renowned for their speed. If anything, both bands share a reputation for crafting music that eschews the hectic pace of much pop, opting instead to focus on the more leisurely and—dare one say it—morose side of the b.p.m. scale. In short, haste is neither band’s specialty, and there is a certain clumsiness apparent on Fishtank that belies this characteristic.

Which isn’t to say that the songs are bad. Nearly every track will satisfy fans of either band’s appetite for gentle melodies, loping snare whispers, and overall overcast prettiness—a perfect accompaniment for moaning or weeping softly.

Opener ‘I Hear . . . Goodnight’ features mournful violin from Dirty Three’s Warren Ellis waltzing comfortably with Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk’s typically lush vocal harmonies, and ‘When I Called Upon Your Seed’ sounds like something you might hear in your local church on a particularly solemn Sunday morning.

The track also sounds just like Low, and consequently it exemplifies the main problem with the disc—there’s not much cohesion between the two bands. Half the tracks sound like standard Dirty Three songs, and the other half sound like regular old Low.

Even when the two bands manage to get it together, it’s more of a patchwork than a united whole. The cover of Neil Young’s ‘Down By The River’ could be easily divided into two distinct songs: ramshackle, moody D3 for the first seven minutes, sober, moody Low for the last two. The only track that sees the bands successfully mesh is the disc’s most unlikely, the raucous gospel/roots flavoured freak-out ‘Lordy.’

Featuring a plucky banjo riff and a refreshingly aggressive vocal delivery from Sparhawk, the song sounds nothing like any prior Low or Dirty Three tune. For that reason alone, it’s the highlight of In The Fishtank—a fine example of why, no matter how imperfect the results, Konkurrent’s Fishtank experiments are a worthwhile endeavor.

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