Menu | Rating System | Guest Book | Archived Reviews:
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

  Bella Union  
Release Date:
Reviewed by:

I was playing this CD when a friend came to pick me up to go out for dinner. She stopped, listened, and said, "Which Dirty Three album is this?"

"Um," i replied around pulling on boots, "it's actually Bonnevill."

"Who's that?"

"Well, it's Mick Turner, the guitarist in The Dirty Three with ... some girl."

"Who plays the violin?"

I picked up the CD case to check. "The girl. Her name is Jessica Billey. I don't know anything else about her."

"So this is The Dirty Three with a slight lineup change?"

"Well, they don't have the drummer here," i say, suddenly all defensive. "And she plays piano on one track...."

"But basically it's The Dirty Three."

I paused for a minute. "Yeah, i guess so," i conceed. "Let's go -- i'm starving."

This dialog really made me re-evaluate this CD. You see, i got it about two weeks ago and have listened to it a lot since then, as i have a tendency to do with any Dirty Three release. And yet, i never realized that it sounds almost exactly like The Dirty Three without the drummer.

Which, now that i think about it, was not what i was expecting. I was expecting ... something more. Something different. A re-interpretation of the light guitar and violin sound. Anything.

What i got was an album to fill in the time until The Dirty Three release their next album. And now that i think about it, that's kinda disappointing. I mean, i LOVE this sound. Who knew that passionately played violin and light guitarwork could be so beautiful together? Pelican continues that general trend. It is, quite simply, beautiful music. Stunningly so at times.

Now that i have realized that i wanted something different, i have been able to detect a few differences between Bonnevill and The Dirty Three. First of all, Jessica Billey is a very good violinist, but she doesn't play with quite the same level of insane emotiveness that Warren Ellis does. Nor does she use the same amount of echo and chorus on her violin -- the instrument, here, is relatively unmodified. It's a slight difference, one that an ear not well-trained in the intracies of The Dirty Three might very well miss.

Plus, Mick Turner plays, well, he plays a little sloppier in Bonnevill. It's like he had not fully finished the songs, and some of what he plays was improvised in the studio. His guitar playing has a vaguely "jamming" feel to it. Heck, for all i know Ms. Billey might be jamming out as well on the violin. I have never heard a "jam" with a violin, so i wouldn't recognize it if it bit me.

Anyway, it all sounds good, but i associate a certain degree of precision with The Dirty Three. Pelican seems looser than any of their releases.

That said, i think it's a really solid album. It's quite listenable, and as i have previously stated, really beautiful and sweeping music. However, if you don't like The Dirty Three, this is not going to do anything for you.

If you are already a fan -- then grab this, you'll love it. If you are not a fan but really enjoy introspective melodic music, then give this a chance. I would recommend Whatever You Love, You Are by The Dirty Three first, but this could serve as a fine introduction to this general sound.

One last thing that i should mention: this is Volume 3 of Bella Unions's Series Seven. The other two release so far are by Rothko and Gwei-lo. So far, this series has been quite interesting. Let's hope that Bella Union keeps up this level of quality.

Related Links:

Bella Union Series 7:

Volume 1: Gwei-lo by Gwei-lo
Volume 2: In The Pulse Of an Artery by Rothko

Return to the top of this page. | Return to the Album Review menu.