Album: Dark night of the soul
Artist: Brian Burton and Mark Linkous
Buy?: If game for a unique musical experience.
Dark Night of the Soul is a period filled with intense darkness, desperation, and self-doubt, a feeling of almost complete separation from God, when all actions seem pointless and all prayers feel unanswered. The album ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ is a collaboration between super-producer Brian Burton (Danger Mouse) and multi-instrumentalist Mark Linkous (Sparklehorse), along with music and photobook contribution by filmmaker David Lynch and a bevy of different vocalists. Before the first notes even play, we are presented with Revenge, a soft but determined keyboard-laden number with a decidedly dark tone. Wayne Coyne’s (The Flaming Lips) smooth lament gives a feeling of helplessness and pain, and the line “In my mind, I have shot you, and stabbed you through your heart”; one half of an incredible lyric, it takes on a meaning even bigger than the one initially intended. It is the perfect introduction to the album. Possibly the best track, it is incredibly beautiful, but also filled with sorrow. This balance, the joyous and the sorrowful, the dark and the light, is the highlight of the album.
Many of the songs have a light, bouncy feel (Just War, Jaykub, Little Girl) and other’s a loud, raucous tone (Angel’s Harp, Pain), and yet a delicate, dark pall hangs over the album throughout. Dark Night of the Soul contains a great variety of styles, but it has the most effect if viewed as a whole. Don’t think about how different tracks such as Daddy’s Gone and Insane Lullaby are. This is a compilation; so there is going to be a bit of a disconnect. But Linkous and Burton do an incredible job of keeping it all together under the same dark, emotional shroud. Even when the album kicks up the noise, which may harm the mood for some, the album retains its emotional punch. Two tracks, Angel’s Harp and Pain, are likely to be the biggest deal breakers for a sceptical listener. The former has the feel of a western lament with interspersed moments of creaks and shrieks as Black Francis’s vocals lumber along. The latter features raw guitars and Iggy Pop’s deep-voiced, incredibly negative ramblings, stay true as ends with Iggy shouting, “Etcetera, I give up! I quit!” They are loud, whereas much of the album’s strenght lies in quieter emotion. Some may view them as too brazen and disruptive, but they should be viewed as more of a transition to the quieter half of the album. The emotion, the focus, and the meaning remain consistent.
All the tracks are different, from the eccentricities of the James Mercer-featured Insane Lullaby to the incredible gothic gloom of Vic Chesnutt’s performance on Grim Augury. This is a tribute to the skill of Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse, who’s influences are easily felt throughout the album. The slick, modern work of Danger Mouse is everywhere, while the music is saturated with Linkous’s flair for creating music that touches the deep recesses of the soul. Dark Night of the Soul is a tremendous weight. It is dark, and it is sad. The spectre of the deaths of Linkous and Chesnutt hang over it. This is only one half of Dark Night of the Soul’s effect though.
The beauty of the album shines through with the sorrow. While you may feel a little down after finishing the album, you still come away satisfied, for this was a true musical experience. The music throughout is excellent, and relatively cohesive when you consider the wide array of contributors and varying styles. While this album may not be the best work of either Danger Mouse or Sparklehorse’s excellent careers, that doesn’t matter (it is still excellent). With Dark Night of the Soul, it is just as much about the experience as it is the skill.
SRIKRISHNA NATESAN, drummer, Blind Image
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