Dark Dark Dark might be a new name on the block as far as UK audiences are concerned, but the Minneapolis collective have actually been honing their craft for quite some time. It was back in 2006 that founder members Nona Marie Invie and Marshall LaCount conceived the idea of a lo-fi, folk-inspired, chamber pop ensemble, and having enlisted the talents of several main players from within their local music scene, the reality that became known as Dark Dark Dark was borne.
Of course it's difficult to imagine the complexities of working under such orchestral driven constraints. While Invie and LaCount are ultimately responsible for the majority of the band's lyrics and arrangements, credit must also be given to the other five lesser known members that make up Dark Dark Dark's enigmatic yet thoroughly engaging sheen. Where 2008's debut long player 'The Snow Magic' drew obvious comparisons to the likes of The Decemberists and to a lesser extent Arcade Fire, its follow up offers a broader spectrum of ideas and influences to grab on to. Not that we're pontificating Dark Dark Dark as copyists in any way, shape or form; far from it in fact, as their lyrical content in particular would probably have more in common with 1940s Berlin at times rather than any homage to post-millennial Americana.
Using instruments such as banjos or the accordion as well as more traditional tools of the trade such as guitar and drums, their back-to-basics approach isn't any kind of gimmick. In fact, listening to 'Wild Go' as a whole it would be difficult to envisage the album being written and recorded any other way. Where last year's 'Bright Bright Bright' EP hinted at a more experimental direction, 'Wild Go' takes their stripped back ethos of yore even further, which, when considering both were recorded during the same sessions, suggests they were having a bit of an identity crisis of sorts.
The laidback, slightly tormented jazz of 'In Your Dreams' could be a rewrite of The Creatures 'Miss The Girl', Invie's hazy vocal the main standpoint as she quietly signs off 'We all have dreams we forget.' The mood varies slightly via the piano-led 'Daydreaming', a song first aired on the current series of 'Grey's Anatomy'. While the orchestration could have been set in outer space, the primitive 'Heavy Heart' sounds like it could have been written for a Shane Meadows screenplay. Here, LaCount takes the lead in inquisitive fashion, urging, 'In a room full of people, will anyone dance with me?'
While the genteel 'Celebrate' and album closer 'Wild Go' both recall fellow traditionalists, Denver trio Tennis, the haunting melody of 'Something For Myself' highlights Invie as a pervasive chanteuse of some note. Likewise with the melancholic 'Right Path' and soothing tones of 'Nobody Knows', there's a feeling Dark Dark Dark aren't merely playing a game, but actually laying the bare bones of their lives on the line. Occasionally, reality gets in the way where a spot of whimsical fantasy wouldn't go amiss, and for all its clever play on words and complicated structures, 'Wild Go' finds itself wallowing in a deluge of its own seriousness.
Overall though, the deft precision with which they calmly execute each piece makes this a worthwhile acquisition to anyone's record collection, while inviting a pleasant dilemma of its own when Dark Dark Dark arrive at the decision as to which musical path to follow on album number three. An engagingly subtle mixed box of complexity, which takes the term 'File under uneasy listening' to new, unimaginable heights.