"Dark Night of the Soul." Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse. Just about a year ago producer extraordinaire Danger Mouse, legendary filmmaker David Lynch and Sparklehorse mastermind Mark Linkous collaborated on a project titled "Dark Night of the Soul." Originally a combination of a full-length album and an accompanying 100-page book of hand-numbered photographs taken by Lynch, the project faced a legal problem with record label EMI that kept any of the music from being released. In order for the music to get heard, the photography book was sold with a blank CD-R with the instructions "Use it as you will."
The much-anticipated album had plenty of reasons for fans to seek it out by whatever means necessary. Along with the three principle collaborators, "DNOS" features a veritable who's who list of contributors. The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne, The Pixies' Black Francis, The Shins' James Mercer, Iggy Pop and many others all put in appearances.
Then, this past March, Linkous committed suicide, renewing interest in the project and leading to its proper release late last month. In light of this tragedy, DNOS takes on a deeper resonance, making a poignant statement on Linkous' often-overlooked talents as a songwriter and musician.
Opening up with the orchestral psych-pop of "Revenge," Wayne Coyne sets the melancholy tone that permeates the album.
Contributions from The Strokes' Julian Casablancas and Super Furry Animals' Gruff Rhys add some levity to the proceedings, while Black Francis and Iggy lend swagger and a knowing wink to their pair of back-to-back post-punk slammers.
The Cardigans' Nina Persson and Suzanne Vega (out from hiding beneath whatever rock she's been under) add two of the album's effervescent contributions, while Lynch himself provides noir-ish crooning to the haunting title track.
It's all pretty choice stuff, but all the more heartbreaking considering the talent involved that has now been lost. This is never more evident than on "Grim Augury," an abstract funeral dirge featuring singer-songwriter Vic Chesnutt. Like Linkous, Chesnutt also took his own life -- on Christmas Day of last year.
"Dark Night of the Soul" is the sort of cool project that brings together disparate players who inexplicably link together perfectly around a distinct theme. It all works well here, but for those who were fans of certain principle players who are no longer with us, the project's sadder aspects can be enhanced to the point of being nothing less than heartbreaking.