The Deep Dark Woods

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  • The Springtime Anchorage
Harvest Sun @ Leaf 30/1/14

If their name is anything to go by, THE DEEP DARK WOODS must be fairly uncomfortable being exposed to the urban environs of Liverpool. Consistently praised for their moody and instantly depressing approach to traditional folk rhythms, the band’s songs serve as portals into another reality, one that is far sadder and features a lot more people getting hanged. Indeed, one needs only to look over their back catalogue to get a hint of what’s in store: Hang Me, Oh Hang Me; The Gallows; Back Alley Blues… the list goes on.

Before we dig up that particular corpse though, local indie country rockers THE SPRINGTIME ANCHORAGE arrive on the scene with their pleasing blend of rockabilly rhythms and contemporary style. Bar a couple of beards, they all look fresh out of uni, which is why their mature and tight sound is initially so surprising; vocalist Marc Hannon has the sugary grit of a far older man, and the songs are immaculately and carefully formulated to ensure each country lick hits with the most power. The musicians work fantastically together to build arching crescendos and climaxes that hit home with untold force, and their individual skills shine equally brightly. Electric guitarist Phillip Ryan-Melville in particular stands out for his excellent axe-wielding – his quality only serves to help mark The Springtime Anchorage as an act to watch out for.

With such an excellent and, at times, energetic opening band, The Deep Dark Woods would have good reason to be sadder than usual. It certainly seems so when they meander onto the stage – there is no introduction and the band launch sullenly into heavy-hitter The Place I Left Behind. A gorgeous whisky-based cocktail of bittersweet melodies and soaring regret, The Deep Dark Woods certainly are taking no prisoners with this opener – and it is only a sign of things to come. One of the key mechanisms in the band’s melodies is the contrast between the voices of vocalist Ryan Boldt and bassist Chris Mason; the former’s mournful and gruff utterances are beautifully complimented by the whimsical and bird-like echoes of the latter. This secret weapon is utilised to full effect in The Sun Never Shines and All The Money I Had Is Gone, which come later in the set to startling effect. The songs from Jubilee seem the more technical and self-indulgent, and with such long instrumental sequences certain portions of the crowd become restless, which soils the experience somewhat by breaking through the bubble of melancholy the band work so hard to construct. Thankfully, just when the chatter is becoming its most threatening, they launch into such favourites as 18th Of December and Hang Me, Oh Hang Me to regain control over their setting. It’s just as well – the music, more varied and indulgent than on the recordings, is certainly worth paying attention to. Although they systematically avoided playing my three favourite songs, I can heartily recommend The Deep Dark Woods.

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