By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
It's hard to believe that Dark Dark Dark started as a fledgling band that Nona Marie Invie and Marshall LaCount formed around the loose prerequisite of "whoever wants to go to New Orleans, starting tomorrow," but that's just how their story began. The band has become much more focused and proficient as their lineup has solidified, while they've honed a unique, worldly sound that represents a nice cross-section of styles from all over the musical map.
After two stellar EP's and one full-length, the sextet is set to release their lush new LP, Wild Go, next month with a record-release show at First Avenue, appropriately playing their biggest local show to date after assembling the best batch of tunes of their young career. The new album, which is produced by the esteemed Tom Herbers, is a mature, cohesive effort that represents Dark Dark Dark's most accomplished release yet, finding the band growing in both confidence and virtuosity.
Recorded primarily at Minneapolis's Music Box Theater (as well as Creation Audio and Sacred Heart in Duluth), the new set of songs is studied and rich, with intricate, intoxicating arrangements growing in both depth and subtlety, which LaCount credits as an integral part of the band's development.
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"We realized early on that playing loud and fast all the time, the way you might have to if you were playing quieter acoustic instruments on the street, competing with street noise, is not actually what we're after," he says. "Arrangements and dynamics became very important as part of our natural progression."
The subject matter is a cogent mix of both a celebration of, and a longing for, events that won't necessarily last and the inevitable enlightenment that we receive when confronted with that ephemeral reality. That heady lyrical composition is only augmented by the moody, distinctive piano and string-driven melodies that luxuriantly color the heart of the album, with the band "giving certain feelings, ideas, or variables a voice," LaCount explains. "It's more like we're making room for them, not inventing them to fill space."
And while the mythical "Minneapolis sound" has yet to seep into their music, LaCount praises the area, saying, "The music and community here is very diverse, skilled, and interesting, and that informs our sound." The only carryover from Bright Bright Bright (the band's recent EP, which was also produced by Herbers) that made it onto Wild Go is the beguiling "Something For Myself," which forms both the literal and figurative centerpiece to the album, with Invie's sonorous vocals floating amid a lilting piano line, haunting strings, and a lively accordion. LaCount is enamored with the song as well, believing that the track "didn't get to shine as much as I think it can on the EP, so we let it carry over and live with the whole body of work. We were trying to shape the strongest Wild Go record we could." And strong it is, with opener "In Your Dreams" geting the album off to a rollicking start, injecting the record with a zest and charm that carries over into all ten tracks.
Dreams and reality are in constant contrast throughout the album, with LaCount viewing the themes of the record as split equally: "One that is dealing with personal and interpersonal struggles, and one that is having little personal empowerments or liberations out in the world," he says. "I think the theme reflects life: struggle, success, learn, struggle, loss, learn, struggle, success, learn, struggle, party, etc." The gripping songs on Wild Go clearly reflect those disparate concerns, as "Heavy Heart" has a mournful, threatening quality that is balanced splendidly by "Celebrate," which vividly depicts the festivities that are necessary after we've absorbed life's lessons. There is a tremendous amount of freedom within these delicate, nuanced numbers, with the imaginative lyrics only furthering how lost the listener can get in the music.
LaCount also was responsible for the album's evocative cover art, which, he feels, "Parallels the mood and spirit (of the record) in many ways. It's modest and subdued, personal, revealing and nearly risque. Sort of classical, sort of hippie, sort of New York circa 1980, sort of fun to show people your butts on such a grand scale. It's nice to be serious/not so serious, tease a little, be a little sexy. I hope our music does those things, so I hoped the cover would do those things."
The record certainly is a luxurious blend of all of those moods and more, with each song drawing the listener further into the intimate world depicted within their music. The poignant title track, which LaCount views as "one big victory for Earth," closes out the record in a grand, stately manner, bringing full circle the ideas of creation and collapse layered throughout the record. Wild Go hopefully will represent one big victory for Dark Dark Dark as well, as their profile grows right along with the scope and significance of their enchanting songs.