Half a dozen weeks before the release of their third album ‘Who Needs Who’, Dark Dark Dark come to Salford for an intimate set in the cosy Sacred Trinity Church. Nancy Elizabeth is playing solo when I enter the space, I’ve no choice but to wait just outside the open double doors of the crowded little venue.

I’ve seen Nancy play live before – Band On The Wall two years ago in support of Denis Jones. Back then she had a band, which included a harpist. The fragile ebb and flow of her music comes across in an even more honest fashion now that she is stood alone with her guitar. Couples at the front on beanbags share a hug under the low lighting , surrounded by complete silence, except for the occasional opening of a beer can and the music. Her piano based album ‘Wrought Iron’ was a favourite of mine back in 2010, but her choice of instrument tonight means that songs from that album are sadly absent. It’s a touching, yet assured and confident set that occasionally reminds me of The Watersons or even recent PJ Harvey.

Bodies disperse between acts to appease a nicotine craving, or to stretch legs. I take advantage and move nearer to the front, sandwiching myself between a wall and a broken leg.

Dark Dark Dark‘s 2008 debut album ‘The Snow Magic’ had a Beirut, fairground “chamber folk” feel to it. Vocals were largely shared between the banjo player Marshall LaCount and accordion player Nona Marie Invie… although Nona has now taken on a majority of the vocals and plays keys, with Marshall playing clarinet or electric banjo with a drummer, bassist and a new accordion player completing the Minnesota based five-piece.

Nona adds friendly touches to the evening, inviting the crowd forward, or asking if we’d like to stand after sitting on the floor for a while. She chooses to move up to the high wooden pulpit and sing above us for a while. Not to be outdone, Marshall stands on an amp.

Their intriguing time signatures keep us on our toes, with emphasis made on unpredictable off-beats. Faults in Nona’s voice would be exposed in this setting if there were any, but the flawless performance allows all to slump into their seats and just appreciate the collective sound, in silence. ‘Tell Me’ almost completely disposes with the traditional instruments and as a result the sound has a darker edge (for want of a better word). It’s this song that has brought me here, this more contemporary arrangement may well appeal to a wider audience. ‘Meet In The Dark’ is a highlight for me, along with a song that has the lyrics… *checks dodgy scribbled writing on notepad* “…taking me home…” and also the 2010 single ‘Daydreaming’.

As you’d expect from a band about to release their third album, the performance is tight and effortlessly impressive. The change in direction had helped to keep them fresh and interesting. Support from BBC 6 music will help push them in the right direction. October the 1st can’t come quickly enough for me, I was kind of hoping I could buy the album tonight from the band themselves, but it wasn’t to be.

Peter Rea

I like to go see fresh new music at Manchester's superb selection of smaller venues, and then share my enthusiasm.