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Todd Martens, LA Times blogs: “Dark Night of the Soul” arrived almost as a myth. A 13-track collaboration with a rotating cast of singers…turned gloom and mystery into the enchanting — a soundtrack, perhaps, for a macabre fairy tale…Legal drama between Danger Mouse and EMI tied up the album’s release. A companion book of the same name, featuring the photographs of filmmaker David Lynch, came with a blank CD-R, seemingly encouraging fans to acquire the songs through less than legal means… Now, more than a year after the music was officially unveiled at a Los Angeles art gallery, “Dark Night of the Soul” is receiving a legit release. Coming, however, just a few months after Linkous committed suicide, the lush, dreamlike orchestrations of “Dark Night of the Soul” seems no less fabled coming from a major label.
There’s a hesitating beauty to the nightmares explored on “Dark Night,” from the keyboard symphonies of “Revenge,” featuring a calmly paranoid vocal take from the Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne, to the carnival-like haunt of “Everytime I’m with You,” led by a leery Jason Lytle (Grandaddy). It’s only when the album tries to kick up a racket, such as the Julian Casablancas-sung “Little Girl,” that the hallucinatory images get an unnecessary jolt. But tales such as the Vic Chesnutt-led trance of “Grim Augury,” as well as the crooked pianos and spoken-word delivery from Lynch on the title track, show that there’s plenty of beauty in weirdness.”
Jon Chattman, huffingtonpost “While his new album features: The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas, Iggy Pop, The Flaming Lips and filmmaker David Lynch, Danger Mouse wants people to know “Dark Night of the Soul” wasn’t simply thrown together to “compile names of all stars.” On the contrary, the project is a deeply personal project — “a very intimate thing” — that’s taken years to make, a year to get released and ultimately serves as a lasting legacy for Mark “Sparklehorse” Linkous, whom Danger made the album with.
The evolution of “Dark Night of the Soul” has been as complex and interesting as the actual songs themselves. The album was first released last year as a picture book featuring photos by Lynch and a blank CD-R for fans to download the tunes from. After a yearlong dispute, EMI released the album to the masses Tuesday (July 13). Simultaneously, an art exhibit has been launched featuring photographs based on Lynch’s snapshots. The exhibit first opened July 13 at the Morrison Hotel Gallery at Bowery and Bleecker in New York City. It consists of 50 original images displayed as “Soul” plays. An IFC.com virtual gallery already went live at http://www.ifc.com/blogs/indie-ear/2010/07/dark-night-of-the-soul.php.
Danger Mouse: “I think I’ve had a good amount of time to deal with my friend Mark’s death… We (Mark and I) took on a lot with the project, and I still have the same reference points I’ve always had with this album – what it means when I listen to it. That hasn’t changed. Everybody involved is glad it’s come out even if we finished it a year ago. Mark knew it was coming out [before his death].
I wouldn’t say I chose everybody I’ve worked with — that would seem a little presumptuous, but I’m definitely careful who I’m working with. I don’t just work with anybody and everything, it’s quite the opposite. I get shit for not working with people all the time.
I helped a little with his last album five years ago, and that’s where it started. He wasn’t sure if he still wanted to do music as Sparklehorse, and I encouraged him to do more. It was good timing for the both of us. I had a song on that album that didn’t sound like part of a Sparklehorse album, and I said that’s alright – we don’t have to worry about where it fits. Basically that’s how it started, we went from there really. Over the next couple years, he came up a little to L.A., and we did little segments at a time. It was difficult for us just because the way we work together. It was hard. We work differently. It was something worth it with the end result, but he’s a producer and writer and I am too and we have different ways of doing things.
We put together a list of important people we had known pretty intimately. These are people, I know for me, I’ve had great conversations with just about life. We weren’t just compiling stuff to get out there. These were people who we’ve known and talked with about all kinds of stuff, heavy stuff, and all of a sudden decided to do a song with them. I never told Iggy to write a song about ‘pain.’ This album is very intimate with their personal feelings in the songs.
I knew we probably were not going to tour for this album, but there’s been something visual about it and I wanted something to represent the whole thing – something all encompassing. I’m a fan of David Lynch’s films and the music in them, and I felt maybe he’d have an interesting take on what to do once he heard the album.
It’s still the most unique. It encompasses a lot of stuff I’d done in the past and I’ve done since then. The process of it, and working with all of the people, reminded me of why I got into this in the first place. With the graphics and music, it’s been like a big art project.
I haven’t had time to reflect on it. It’s been a big undertaking. With the all the books, the galleries, it’s good. It’s not the most profitable thing. I don’t know if I’d do it again, you lose some money when you do a thing like this. [Laughs]”
Aaron Kayce, Blurt: “Just by reading the credits – Danger Mouse, Sparklehorse, David Lynch, Flaming Lips, Iggy Pop, Frank Black, Julian Casablancas, James Mercer, Suzanne Vega – you know this is either gonna be really cool or a half-baked slapped together mix tape compilations. Pfhhh! Danger Mouse would never let that happen and his production (which is somehow both vintage and futuristic at the same time) is the silver thread that ties this somber beast together. Although it rarely gets particularly heavy, even with the sympathetic strings, airy static bleeps and swells of orchestral harmony, this is a dark album about lonely people searching for connection. If Wayne Coyne singing about “bringing you fuckers down” or Vic Chesnutt talking about “cutting a baby out” doesn’t do you in, David Lynch’s creepy ass cinematic delivery surely will. And you have to dig how Danger Mouse makes you feel like you snorted an OxyContin during Jason Lytle’s (Grandaddy) powerful performance on “Everytime I’m With You.”
Initially, EMI had blocked the release of the album – which had been slated for early August of 2009 – for undisclosed reasons, leaving fans to seek out the music via underground avenues. (Dark night indeed.) A number of publications, BLURT included, went ahead and published reviews since those “underground avenues” were numerous enough to make the record nearly as widely available as any official release. (It had even been streamed at one point via NPR Music.)
Standout Tracks: “Revenge,” “Dark Night of the Soul”
Greg Kot, Chicago Tribune: “After a troubled past in which legal hassles delayed its release by a year, the musical portion of “Dark Night of The Soul is finally receiving an official unveiling (an accompanying art book by movie director David Lynch was released in 2009).
The occasion is nonetheless bittersweet because one of the album’s creators, Mark Linkous, a k a Sparklehorse, committed suicide last March, which leaves “Dark Night of the Soul” (Capitol) as his unintended epitaph. The artist wrote, performed and produced the music with multi-instrumentalist Brian Burton, a k a Danger Mouse… Unfortunately, the ambitious concept proves too unwieldy to work as a consistent album. The opening trio of tracks, as sung by the Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne, Super Furry Animals’ Gruff Rhys and ex-Grandaddy front man Jason Lytle, set up a certain level of expectation – a wan, wistful blend of introspection, dread and biting candor – that is disrupted by noisier tracks from Black Francis and Pop and a couple of low-fi throwaways with Lynch on vocals.
The album briefly regains its bearings with “Insane Lullaby,” in which Mercer brings a sense of improbable longing to a track that whirs like a noisy washing machine. But the most resonant moment belongs to Vic Chesnutt, whose “Grim Augury” unspools over Linkouse’s hypnotic Optigan keyboard-playing. Chesnutt, who committed suicide only a few weeks before Linkous died, turns a Norman Rockwell-like domestic scene into a twisted nightmare. It’s the kind of song and sentiment a master surrealist like Linkous surely must have appreciated.”
Andy Gill, Independent: “Some nights of the soul are obviously darker than others. During the year-long dispute with EMI that held up this album’s release, two of the musicians involved have taken their own lives, the disabled songwriter Vic Chesnutt by an overdose of muscle-relaxant drugs last Christmas Day, while Mark “Sparklehorse” Linkous shot himself earlier this year. If that suggests Dark Night of the Soul might be hewn from the bleakest recesses of the human spirit, that’s only partly accurate: for while Linkous’s co-producer Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton acknowledges the common themes here involve “pain, revenge, war [and] twisted dreams”, these realisations of those themes are somehow infused with uplifting moments, joyous melodies and the sheer exuberance of creativity.
The project began four years ago when Burton was working on the Sparklehorse album Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain, and suggested getting guest vocalists to perform some songs Linkous wasn’t comfortable singing himself. The line-up ultimately assembled includes members of The Strokes, Flaming Lips, Pixies, Shins, Stooges, Grandaddy, The Cardigans and Super Furry Animals, along with the film director David Lynch, who besides singing a couple of tracks, also provided the visuals for the limited-edition art book and gallery installation, which accompanied the project’s initial “release” (minus music) last year.
Despite the wide-ranging cast, there’s a pleasing homogeneity about the album, which throughout bears the ambient creep’n’crawl of static, scratch and hiss that was Linkous’s sonic signature – his genius being the way he used it to bring a patina of distressed rusticity to Sparklehorse’s indie-rock. Here, it’s particularly effective behind Lynch’s treated vocals on “Star Eyes (I Can’t Catch It)” and the closing title-track, where the director is a haunting, shadowy presence dimly discernible behind curtains of effects, like a dream-figure from one of his movies.
Jason Lytle is another notably successful collaborator on two tracks, “Jaykub”‘s dream of belated recognition delivered over a throbbing organ, while “Everytime I’m with You” has a psychedelic fairground feel appropriate to a lyric about dissipation: “Every time you come by we get so trashed, stay up all night/ Well it’s so wrong, but it’s so right”. Elsewhere, Flaming Lips and Gruff Rhys help question the notions of “Revenge” and a “Just War” respectively.”
Leilani Polk, The Daily Loaf: “ The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne opens the album with his high and delicate croon in “Revenge,” a slow and forlorn key-driven number about betrayal and the desire to act on it. The ambling “Jaykub” is an alt-country ode to a lonely, insecure man with acoustic guitar, swells of organ, and the angelic sweet vocals of former Grandaddy frontman Jason Lytle, who also sings the dead end love ballad, “Everytime I’m With You.”… James Mercer sets his wholesome fresh vocals against the near-harsh electro fizz bleeptasm of “Insane Lullaby.” Thoughtful and gorgeous and imbued with a surreal sort of richness, Dark Night touches on shadowy subjects while still offering moments of poignancy and humor that draw you in and compel you to pay attention.”
Amazon: The deluxe version includes: 2xLPs, CD, instrumental CD, poster, lobby cards and 48-page 12×12 booklet in box