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Muddling through

Seattle trio Darto shake you awake with rattling post-punk

Amid tense squalls of sound, Darto explore lofty themes. Photo credit:

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One of my favorite Christmas songs - and I like so very few - is "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." It's a lonely little number that reflects the quiet ambience of winter, while still largely sending a positive message. The most interesting part of the song, though, comes at the end, with these lines: "Through the years, we all will be together, if the Fates allow," meaning that nothing is promised to any of us; we may grow old together, but people tend to leave our lives in sad and unexpected ways. This message is softened a bit by the next line, a non sequitur about hanging a star upon a bough.

It should come as no surprise that the nonsense about hanging decorations was not originally a part of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Instead, the line went: "Until then, we'll have to muddle through, somehow," which is much more in line with the song's view of life being a struggle, full of loss and sorrow, buoyed by the love we share with friends and family. To "muddle through" life is a wonderfully effective way to paint that picture, though that dose of realness has largely been wiped clean from the song. But, muddling through is what we all do on a daily basis, and it's something that can deeply inform art that both acknowledges life's complications and celebrates its intermittent victories.

The music of Darto, a band based in Seattle, is uniquely talented at exploring these themes without collapsing into despair or copping out with blanket optimism. Without going into a lot of detail that has been extensively covered elsewhere, Darto's trio of siblings have suffered through blindingly sudden moments of tragedy over their years making music, starting with the death-by-drunk-driver of their friend and former bandmate Jared Sletager; later, the man responsible for the pressing of their first LP, Tom Dillander, would die in an explosion caused by the boiler he used to prepare the wax for the records. Tragedy has helped to shape Darto and, rather from shying away from this, they've let themselves be affected and informed by these experiences, letting it bleed into their music.

No one would call Darto's songs flashy or pristine, with electrifying distortion being the unifying sound; neither are the songs melodramatic, despite their tendency to comment on lofty topics, including "Boiler," from their hex EP, which comments directly on Dillander's death. Candace Harter, Nick Merz and Ryan Merz approach their music and lyrics with the humble, earthy attitude you'd expect from people that came from the smallish, rural city of Duvall. Their hometown is paid tribute with the rumbling, intimidating "Duvall Days," which nicely sums up their mix of dark post-punk and an industrial tendency for finding a lockstep groove and sticking with it. Nick Merz's voice remains in an ominous monotone, intoning from the shadows under a sea of reverb, while the guitars rage and the drums are pounded into dust.

Guitars squall with a confrontational consistency over the majority of Darto's songs, shaking foundations and rattling nerves. Along the way, notions of spirituality, death and home are explored with a curiosity that conveys a desire to explore these things that touch all of us, but can sometimes be hard to stare at for too long. Their most recent single, "Omniscient," is a welcome respite from the aural onslaught - Harter takes lead vocals on a comparatively gentle song, even as it remains awash in blurry effects that lend it a gigantic sound befitting its all-encompassing title. At under three minutes, it's a much more compact offering than their usual output, which frequently passes the five-minute mark by a long shot.

Even when muddling through, there are always moments of invigoration, of being shaken out of a daze, and it's these moments that Darto seems to be constantly searching for.

DARTO, w/ Freak Heat Waves, Defaceman, Ghost Bitch, Friday, June 3, 10 p.m., Cover TBA, Le Voyeur, 404 E. 4th Ave., Olympia, 360.943.5710

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