Dark Dark Dark set out their stall in eclectic style with 2010’s Bright Bright Bright EP. The Minneapolis-based sextet had been knocking about across the water for several years and, for their European debut, they crammed six tracks with just about every alt-indie flavour they could find and served up one of the year’s most alluring appetisers.
However, it was both a promising, and confused, introduction. Bright Bright Bright was one half a haunting introspective – built on a simple blend of Nona Marie Invie’s bewitching, sultry vocal and a brooding, rumbling piano that produced the much-praised title track and the superb Something For Myself. Yet the other half, seemingly belonging to the influence of banjo-playing co-writer Marshall LaCount, played out like an odd Gallic romp lost in its own sense of theatre: accordion and cello jostled uncomfortably to set the tone, and its jaunty instrumentation squirmed awkwardly amongst flecks of Americana and references to East European folk.
The follow up, Wild Go, does little to clarify and, instead, merely expands on the contradictions of the EP (the CD and vinyl releases will both package the two together). While Invie’s melancholia certainly now drives the core of the album, Dark Dark Dark continue to skip along their own singular path with a gleeful ambivalence that ensures the stylistic lurches remain. Put it this way: were there to be a Being John Malkovich sequel, where the eponymous brain belongs to Regina Spektor, John Cusack is replaced by Tiny Vipers, and their cerebral interloping involves going to a Gogol Bordello acoustic show instead of starting a lesbian relationship with Cameron Diaz, the soundtrack would come out like this.
Picture these as an illustrative opening triptych: In Your Dreams is a bawdy tumble that assumes finger clicks, accordion and cello make for good listening – they don’t, and the result is an off-kilter mash. And yet, one track on, Daydreaming is thoughtful and stirring, with Invie landing her vocal somewhere between Vipers’ tremulous Jesy Fortino and Bat For Lashes‘ spectrally self-assured Natasha Khan. Superb. Yet Heavy Heart sees LaCount move front and centre, and the sound shifts again with an Andrew Bird-esque instrumentation now perched precariously over an unhappy nest of folk and jazz. And you thought Charlie Kaufman was confusing.
Dark Dark Dark are best discovered in moments. The sparse beauty of Something For Myself, the epic mysticism of title track Wild Go, the fragile woe that seeps through Invie’s piano on Robert. There are flourishes throughout, but there are also too many pretensions and, ultimately, the album is undone by an unwelcome abundance of unresolved ideas. This is one from which to pick and choose – in a way the production fails to do.