Back on 2008’s debut LP The Snow Magic, Dark Dark Dark’s Nona Marie Invie and Marshall LaCount sounded like the lairiest of vaudevillian characters, gathering up a gaggle of provincial travellers to join them on a journey to New Orleans before prancing, pouting and skipping their home to native Minneapolis streets, wide-eyed, rambunctious and with little more than a banjo and accordion to hand.
A couple of years in the Mill City though, and it would appear that time spent back amidst its imposing skyscrapers and unforgiving concrete ground have mellowed those bohemian souls. Wild Go furthers what intervening EP Bright Bright Bright hinted at, a more expansive, considered body that sees the group look both within themselves and out beyond the city, towards the fantastical. Indeed, there’s a tone of isolation amongst the crowds as LaCount humbly queries at ‘Heavy Heart’s beginning “a room full of people, will anyone dance with me?” The last of the bonhomie, of the innocent excitement is largely left at the LP’s front door with the accordion-heavy rattle and gruff, baritone-backed ‘In Your Dreams,’ before velutinous pianos and simpering strings gently submerge the group’s previous ramshackle charms in favour of something resembling a larger scope and grandeur.
‘Daydreaming,’ which follows the opening track, is heart stopping in itself. A previous single, it showcases Invie’s now more controlled and focused vocal which, rather than pulling down on the heartstrings, gently uncouples and caresses them, her lightest touch enough to set off a quivering emotional tremor as the instrumentation understatedly wells around her. ‘Something For Myself’ is another such moment, each initial component of the song – voice, piano, strings and drums -seemingly isolated amongst the enveloping space with the main protagonist calls out lost to the rest of her band; eventually finding their stern solace, the collective then gracefully push towards heaven-bound crescendo.
It’s these – and the equally sensual balladry of ‘Robert’ – that seem to set Dark Dark Dark above and away from the hustle and bustle of old, making the sort of majestic music to accompany nocturnal thoughts and half-dreams. It’s in the wistful tones and lyrics searching out distant expanses and horizons - “maples grew and fell, rivers turned back on themselves, the wave rolls in and with it takes the sand” - and it’s in the subtle but ultimately important improvement in chemistry between all six band members. At times their sound appears to positively sway in flowing unison, a collective breeze lilting this way and that. At others it comes as though several leafy shoots are linking and interweaving with one another, growing as they tangle.
Interspersed with such breathtaking sections, however, is the odd track that, while not exactly failing, seems unable to combine the same ingredients into songs that reach the same emotive level. Admittedly this mainly occurs when LaCount takes the lead; it’s not through fault of his own, and it’s only on two tracks, but his vocal plays a comfortable second best to his writing partner on ‘Heavy Heart’ and ‘Right Path.’ Unable to stand out from what is a formidable shadow, these tracks can’t help but come across as comparatively flat. She isn’t infallible, though - ‘Nobody Knows’s cutesy start takes a little longer to unfurl than it ought to for a track under three minutes long, though admittedly it does redeem itself with intertwining vocals between front and backing vocals. Compare this though with ‘Celebrate’; a wholly bolder excursion, it’s the band coming together on more well-trodden lively form as violins and brass jig with a chipper accordion, the trio dancing around Invie and her singing cohort – it is, well, celebratory.
The trifling with this album only comes because the high points are truly stunning; the final, title track sees Dark Dark Dark finally achieve their intention and completely depart from the world below. Rich in timbre and dripping in an elegance too fragile to remain grounded, they simply spread their metaphorical wings and lift up airwards, the group’s alchemy achieving perhaps its most emphatic solution of all. Though their own spirit may have mellowed and darkened over time, on Wild Go Dark Dark Dark couldn’t be moving more resolutely towards the light.
7Simon Jay Catling's Score