Marquis De Tren—aka Dirty Three’s Mick Turner—hasn’t worked with Will Oldham in 13 years, but Solemns, their second brief offering, is no less inscrutable than its predecessor. Like this record, Get On Jolly was short and wandering. Here, too, the songs wander, though this time, borrow both theme and tone from Biblical Psalms. The three tracks here don’t ever quite establish tempo or rhythm or repetition to tie the listener to, so while on “Solemn 10”, you hear Oldham singing about the wicked getting “caught in the schemes they devise”, you might also wonder what Turner and Oldham have planned here. The answer is, not much, but this isn’t a bad thing.
Such as on Get On Jolly, Solemns’ virtue comes in its unassuming nature, in how it feels like a glimpse into an inspired moment between musical friends, which also includes the excellent drumming of Jim White and other great flourishes by the likes of Emmett Kelly and Angel Olsen. The music—brooding, sometimes close to eruption—does feel akin to many a Dirty Three tune, and you can feel Oldham creaking to fit his words into these borderless structures. But while the two never quite adhere, it’s the tension it creates that makes these songs work, even if Oldham’s exertion sometimes overshadows the more interesting music behind him. Still, it’s a (second) slight, but interesting release from the pair, a curiously intentional under-the-radar set that accomplishes its slight ambitions without ever pushing past them.