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Melancholy instrumental trio Dirty Three formed in Melbourne, Australia in 1992, led by classically trained violinist Warren Ellis, who began writing and performing music for art openings and plays and also tenured in the groups Blackeyed Susans, Paranoid, and the Nursing Mothers. After enlisting Blackeyed Susans guitarist Mick Turner and drummer Jim White -- veterans of Melbourne bands including the Sick Things, the Moodists, Fungus Brain, and Venom P. Stinger -- Ellis formed Dirty Three; at the group's debut performance, he used a rubber band to attach a guitar pickup to his violin, giving the instrument a distorted, feedback-drenched feel far removed from its original sound. Recorded as a demo, the trio's debut Sad & Dangerous appeared in 1994; subsequent tours in support of Pavement, Sonic Youth, and John Cale helped win Dirty Three a deal with the Touch & Go label, which issued a 1995 eponymous effort and 1996's acclaimed Horse Stories. In 1998, Dirty Three resurfaced with Ocean Songs; Whatever You Love, You Are followed two years later. Celebrating their tenth anniversary, Dirty Three headed back into the studio. Initially, the trio had recorded songs for a follow-up to Whatever You Love, You Are in early 2001; however, the songs were scrapped.
White went on to tour with Smog and Will Oldham. Turner founded his own label, King Crab Records, and worked with Marquis de Tren. Ellis joined his fellow mates Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds for a monumental world tour in spring 2002. Somewhere amidst all this activity, Dirty Three reconvened with producer Fabrice Laureau, chief of Prohibited Records, who recorded part of the soundtrack to Amelie. Together, he and Dirty Three arrived with the enigmatic, dark album She Has No Strings Apollo in February 2003. Cinder, which features appearances by Cat Power's Chan Marshall and Sally Timms from the Mekons, followed two years later. Following the release of Cinder, all three bandmembers concentrated on various solo projects for the next six years. White moved to Brooklyn from Chicago; he recorded and toured with PJ Harvey, Nina Nastasia, Marshall, and Bonnie "Prince" Billy. Ellis joined the Bad Seeds full-time, and was a member of a Bad Seeds off-shoot band, the short-lived Grinderman. He also became Nick Cave's film-scoring partner. Turner issued