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Low and Dirty Three

Now, this is a collaboration that makes sense, but it's astounding how natural these two bands sound together. Duluth, Minnesota's Low are known and loved for their glacially slow, starkly beautiful pop melancholia, while Melbourne Australia's Dirty Three are known and loved for their smoldering violin-based instrumental melancholia. These are two bands with two markedly different styles but similar ethics and together, they have created something staggeringly unique and quietly powerful.

The collaboration came about after the Dutch label Konkurrent invited Low to record one of its notorious In the Fishtank sessions, in which bands are given two days to record a half hour or so of entirely new material. Inspired by a similar In the Fishtank collaboration between Tortoise and The Ex, Low invited their friends and touring companions the Dirty Three to join them for the session. The session was haphazard and spontaneous, as both bands had commitments to perform at a multimedia festival that same weekend. Yet what emerged was a musical document that transfixes you with its graceful restraint. Ranging from calm acoustic ambience to measured melodic passion, the album is stunning in its fluidity and cohesion. The wounded, folky violin yearnings of the Dirty Three's Warren Ellis provide a gorgeous foil for the clean, sad vocals of Low's Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker. Especially striking are a 10-minute slow-building version of Neil Young's "Down By the River" and a manic gospel- and blues-tinged banjo-happy workout called "Lordy." The pensive, delicate "I Hear...Goodnight" is the six-song EP's opener.

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