Hearing Darlingside find its sound over the course of two full-length albums and an EP is astounding. The biggest change being that, between the first full-length album and the second, the group went from being a quintet to a quartet, losing a drummer, but finding something approaching excellence.
Darlingside is made up of Dave Senft on bass, Don Mitchell on guitar and banjo, Auyon Mukharji on classical violin and folk mandolin, Harris Paseltiner on cello and guitar and, for those first two records, Sam Kapala on drums. They met at Williams College where they were in singing groups and cover bands with one another.
With 2015's "Birds Say," Darlingside lost Sam Kapala. That isn't to say Kapala's drumming isn't fantastic, because it is, but forcing the rhythm out of the other instruments and all four voices takes the band to a different level. The album is at turns epic and intimate, familiar and unknowable. Tracks like "The Ancestor" and "Harrison Ford" have a scope that none of their work has shown before. Mukharji's violin is clearer, Mitchell's banjo is more experimental, Paseltiner's cello is fuller and Senft's bass is playfully exploring the landscape.
"Birds Say" is the band saying they aren't like anyone else and they refuse comparison. There are folk influences and pop influences here, but none of it comes out in the sound. It is impossible to listen to the album and point to any one influence. Mostly this is because of the absolutely dynamic songwriting which has somehow become even stronger.
The lyrics are haunting and unforgettable, such as "Only, only time, only time will tell if you're the sea itself/or an echoing shell," or "Yes, we will leave here without a trace/take a new name and an old shape/I'll be no outlaw, no renegade/just your faithful god of loss/so meet me by the river/on a boat-shaped piece of Earth/we press our bones together/and the spider does its work."
These four musical minds meld perfectly and seem like inevitable extensions of one another. Mitchell says the group has transitioned toward collaboration from square one with each song becoming distinct from the others naturally. Judging from "Birds Say," this works beautifully.
Thursday, March 10, 7 p.m.
Sisters High School,
1700 McKinney Butte Rd., Sisters