We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
Dark Dark Dark, a moody, Minneapolis-based chamber-folk sextet, is certainly not the first band to sport a name that describes its sound. Other telegraphing monikers include the Japanese metal band Loudness, the dogmatically positive ensemble Up With People, and more recently, the self-pitying tweeness of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. But Dark Dark Dark isn’t overtly gothy or into murder ballads. In fact, if the group’s second record, Wild Go, is any indication, Somber Somber Somber would have been a more accurate appellation. The primary Dark one, Nona Marie Invie, sings as well as plays piano and accordion, and her evocative and versatile voice is the album’s saving grace. On “Daydreaming,” she alternates between strength and vulnerability, with understated percussion holding the song together but staying out of Invie’s way. Unfortunately, Invie is gracious enough to share the microphone with the other members of the band. Marshall LaCount should stick with piano, banjo, and clarinet, because his whiny vocals on “Heavy Heart” and “Right Path” are blemishes on an otherwise beautiful recording. Choral contributions from other members on “Celebrate” play like easy-listening distractions. “Wild Go,” the closer, paints a haunting, apocalyptic landscape populated by “children born without wings,” and the gloomy dirge is a fitting end to a funereal work. Listening to Wild Go is kind of like watching a Lars von Trier movie without air conditioning. The album is lush and benefits from the warm production of Tom Herbers, who has worked with Low, an equally depressing band from Minnesota. The songs that include every member of the band can feel overcrowded, and it’s no coincidence that one of the standout tracks, “Robert,” is also one of the most Spartan. The song, which is mostly delicate piano and Invie plaintively singing about an aging, dying loved one, is a pleasant, hypnotic bummer. That it has some emotional resonance can partly be chalked up to its specificity: It’s clear she’s singing about someone she cares about. To the contrary, as pretty as “Daydreaming” is, the lyrics about “unspeakable things” are too vague to penetrate. Wild Go is as dreary as albums get: I found myself wishing I could lock the band in a room with a bottle of Abilify and a couple of Up With People records until it lightened up a little. But while the young band is still searching for its voice, it’s clear that Invie has already found hers.