A global folktronica outpouring.
Dirtwire are a really fascinating band because you aren’t quite sure which direction they’ll veer into next. The trio mixes together classic Americana with electronica beats. Sometimes you could dance to it and other times it is about to be a bluegrass barn fight. Then you’ll have something really quite luscious and chilled. “Embers” largely falls into the latter category but instead of focusing on guitars, Americana and cowboys, we have a worldly view.
Each of the 12 tracks on the album feels like it comes from a different culture as it showcases different instruments and ideas. “Mustang” opens with slow but sturdy beats, a thick synth bass and lots of distant echoing vocal coos. It is as close to Bonobo as Dirtwire get directly but the rest of the album falls in line emotionally with artistic global electronica artists. “Vega” turns the guitar into a Toureg styled jam with jaunty kickdrums and a dusty brass and glassy string arrangement. It feels African before “Papalote” takes us to Mexico with some beautiful flute, shaker and electronica ambient grooves take over. “Izar” takes us to Africa again with a beat that feels like a worker wheel song. Symphonic sympathetic strings and open gliding electric guitar paint a hot oasis. Soft saxophone brings the breeze and sunset.
This global view continues across the album. “El Sultan” brings the kalimba, birdsong, deep bass drilled grooves and oud inspired guitars. “Deeper Well” is America through and through. The only truly vocal-led track has dusty violins, country twangs and a dirty dry effect across all the instruments. It is a tale of Americana blues that stands out and fits in with the themes. How are all the other nations able to provide something beautiful with their sadness whilst America has such a sad tale through and through? It isn’t all cowboy draws at dawn. “Green Eyes” is a giant rodeo on a harmonica. It’s like a crazy chase scene in a desert level of a computer game has been scored for comedic and dramatic effect. “Liminal” shows Dirtwire doesn’t need electrics to make emotions blossom though with a beautifully sensitive acoustic plucked and bowed string arrangement.
The final third of the album takes Dirtwire even further into other genres. “Asterion” is like an Adam Fielding electronica piece that crosses into cinematic post-rock at times. It feels so epic with its huge drum loops and sweeping arpeggio synths and chiming guitar roars – it is a sci-fi montage in waiting. “Dawn of Nashira” returns back to Persia for a curious and alluring brass arrangement. It feels like something Dead Can Dance could have composed and there is an element of this worldly catharsis throughout the album. “Raindrops” is an absolutely beautiful glass bell handpan arrangement that acts as a light and watery healing piece. “Earthcry” then closes out the album with an abstract vocal wash of a collection of vocal layers. It moans and cries without words and manages to sound both motherly and in pain. It’s a curious way to end the album after a lot of deep bass and very percussive tracks, it is like a new dawn has begun.
Whilst Dirtwire are known for their guitar prowess, I’d like to highlight how good the percussion and strings are here. The album wouldn’t be nearly as strong if all three elements didn’t gel and allow each other to breathe. There are moments to dance to, reflect to, relax to and have a barn dance to and yet it weirdly holds itself together as a full piece of work too. “Embers” feels like a global collective outward sigh. Almost every track feels like you are moving through something until the final elements wash it all away and renews. Dirtwire has produced its finest work to date for those that dive into global electronica or even folktronica. A genuinely surprising work of art.
Recommended track: Mustang
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