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Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse:
Dark Night of the Soul

The Stop Smiling Review

Dark Night of the Soul visuals by David Lynch

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse: Dark Night of the Soul

Reviewed by J.C. Gabel

The latest album from Danger Mouse (aka Brian Burton), in collaboration with Sparklehorse’s Mark Linkous, has unfolded almost as mysteriously as his first musical endeavor: the now fabled Grey Album — a self-released, laptop-produced mix CD juxtaposing Jay-Z’s Black Album and The Beatles' White Album. It was an Internet sensation in 2004, and propelled him from bedroom producer to international superstar. Burton went on to chart-topping success with Cee-Lo Green on Gnarls Barkley’s number-one hit “Crazy” a year later, and has been producing records for the likes of Gorillaz and The Black Keys ever since.   

Although Burton had collaborated with Linkous in 2006 on the last Sparklehorse record, Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain, rumors about this new, unnamed project were rampant. In reality, it had been hatched at the South by Southwest music conference in Austin, Texas five years earlier. Dark Night of the Soul, as it came to be known, turned out to be a concept record of collected songs and sound collages, accompanied by a limited-edition art book of original photographs by David Lynch, who was brought in to dream up (as only he can) a visual component to the music they’d created. The duo also enlisted the help of some of their favorite musicians to lend their lyrics and vocal melodies to individual songs, Lynch included. His cryptic, folksy drawl drips through “Star Eyes (I Can’t Catch It)” as well as the title track. The rest of the collaborator list reads like a desert-island playlist — The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne; Super Furry Animals’ Gruff Rhys; Suzanne Vega; former Grandaddy frontman Jason Lytle; Vic Chesnutt; The Shins’ James Mercer; Iggy Pop; Black Francis of the Pixies; The Cardigans’ Nina Persson; and The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas — though end results are mixed. Regardless, fans will never get a chance to hear the music as it was originally intended, which was as a two-part package, along with the book (though you can stream the entire record here).

EMI, the music conglomerate that owns the publishing rights to all the Beatles’ music — not to mention Sparklehorse and Iggy Pop — were not pleased when the Grey Album went viral in 2004, but could do little about the hysteria it had created. This time around, EMI — in what can only be described as a vaguely executed legal filibuster — intervened and stopped Danger Mouse from releasing the music. Instead, the book, published by powerHouse Books in Brooklyn this past summer, came with a blank CD-R with a sticker that read, “For legal reasons, enclosed CD-R contains no music. Use it as you will.” Hint, hint.

Luckily, there is a stunning 100-page book featuring 50 original David Lynch prints that on first look may seem mundane, but on closer inspection are surrealistic and ultimately peculiar, like many of his films.

It’s unclear whether Burton’s next project will be as grandiose, but if there’s one thing this Atlanta-born musician is good at it’s guerilla marketing: The book sold out of its 5,000-copy press run almost instantly, despite the blank CD.

 

 

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