Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse - Present... Dark Night of the Soul

by Rich Morris Rating:7 Release Date:2010-07-12

Long denied a release thanks to legal issues, this intriguing collaboration has been granted a posthumous release following the tragic suicides of both Sparklehorse main man Mark Linkous and Vic Chestnut, who guests on Dark Night of the Soul's psychedelic lament, 'Grim Augury', a twisting, tormented song that's quite hard to listen to in light of what happened.

With a guest cast which ropes in everyone from Julian Casablancas to Iggy Pop and David Lynch, Dark Night of the Soul is by its nature a rambling affair. It's held together, however, by some superlative musicianship and mood-setting, creating a folksy and woozy, dark yet intensely romantic atmosphere that is Linkous at his very best.

The album is bookended by two great collaborations. The Flaming Lips contribute to opening track 'Revenge', a gorgeous, ghostly Pink Floyd-influenced ballad which sets the tone for the rest of the album. Meanwhile, the desolate, scratchy blues of the title track, which closes the album, features an arrestingly weird vocal from David Lynch. His engulfed in echo and reverb and swaddled in moody atmospherics, the song is irresistibly evocative of the great director's strangest, darkest pictures, from Eraserhead to Blue Velvet. It's probably best not to listen to this one with the lights off.

Elsewhere, Julian Casablancas contributes to the more upbeat but no less weird-sounding 'Little Girl', which is reminiscent of Beck at his rambling best. 'Pain' reconnects Iggy Pop to the nihilistic art-rock of The Idiot - always a good formula. In contrast, 'Daddy's Gone', featuring Mark Linkous and Nina Persson, is a sweetly swinging country ballad with some Beatles strings thrown in.

As is to be expected on a project such as this, not everything works. Black Francis' contribution, 'Angel's Harp', is a disappointingly stodgy, unfocused temper tantrum with manages to feel overlong even though it stops before the three minute mark. 'Just War', featuring Gruff Rhys, and both of Jason Lytle's (formerly of Grandaddy) contributions, 'Jaykub' and 'Everytime I'm With You' are pretty but slight.

Dark Night of the Soul is by turns scary and pretty, wistful and brooding. It contains a few less-than-stellar, plodding moments, but mostly it's an ample reminder of the talents with have very sadly lost this year.

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