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Dark last night
on 14 July 2010
Let us all pause for a moment, and bow our heads for a brilliant musician. Last March, a deeply depressed Mark Linkous aka Sparklehorse committed suicide.
But before he passed away, Linkous finished one last collaboration with Danger Mouse, appropriately entitled "Dark Night of the Soul." Lots of spacefuzz rock'n'roll and colorful psychedelic pop, with countless guest singers/musicians/composers adding their own unique stylings to the music. And sadly, you can hear some foreshading of Linkous' loss in there.
Every song has guest vocalists who also helped produce and composing their songs. It begins with the warm, liquid psychedelica of "Revenge," in which Wayne Coyne croons sadly, "In my mind/I have shot you and stabbed you through your heart/I just didn't understand/The ricochet is the second part..."
Then it switches to the shimmering, glitchy "Just War" with Gruff Rhys, and the fluttering folk-rock of "Jaykub" with Jason Lytle. After those through songs, there's a brief interlude of pure rock'n'roll -- Julian Casablancas slurs through the lean "Little Girl," Black Francis drawls through the half-baked"Angel's Harp," and Iggy Pop... well, he burns through a fiery expanse of dark hard-rock. What else?
Then things sink back into the spacefuzz again, with James Mercer, Jason Lytle, Vic Chestnutt, David Lynch, Suzanne Vega and Nina Persson all contributing. There's the ethereal electronic "Star Eyes (I Can Catch It)," the twinkly chaotic "Insane Lullaby," the bluesy "Daddy's Gone" and "The Man Who Played God," the melancholy folkpop of "Everytime I'm With You," and with bluesy streamers of synth and mats of grimy guitar in the last two songs.
The biggest problem with "Dark Night of the Soul" is that it sounds like too many different artists -- it often sounds more like a compilation of these various people than a unified album. That said, the only song I didn't like was "Angel's Harps," which just sounded half-baked. The rest of the songs are melancholy, tinged with hopelessness and sadness.
The softer songs are full of different instrumentations -- spacey synth that twinkles, shimmers and glitches, xylophones, soft strings, fuzzy guitars and murmuring vocals. The harder, rockier songs have traces of those things, but they rely more on driving guitar and raw blasts of bass -- a particular highlight is Iggy Pop's song, which starts off as a simple hard-rock song, but blossoms with streams of glittering synth and blooming whorls of guitar.
The guest vocalists also do brilliant jobs -- Wayne Coyne, Jason Lytle and Jason Mercer are particular highlights, but all of them are expertly woven into their music. And the lyrics are simply beautiful -- lots of striking imagery ("But dreams float up/from fishers in the flood"), hopelessness ("The last survivor crawling through the dust/There is just war/A contribution till humankind/Turns to rust") and general sadness ("I woke up and all my yesterdays were gone").
Sparklehorse and Danger Mouse crafted a beautiful, saddening collection of songs that turned out to be Linkous' last work -- I wasn't crazy about Black Francis' song, but all the rest are lovely.