Review Summary: Pain, it's just a matter of sensation...
Following the critically acclaimed “Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain” Mark Linkous, sole member of folk-pop outfit Sparklehorse, announced a collaboration with Danger Mouse, producer of the Gorillaz’s grammy nominated album “Demon Days,” and member of urban-soul duo Gnarls Barkley. These two, as well as surrealist director David Lynch began work on what was to be called “The Dark Night of the Soul.” And what a fitting name. After a dispute with record company EMI the album was delayed more than a year. During this time Vic Chestnut, one of many featured artists on the album, overdosed and died on Christmas day. Three months later, Mark Linkous took his own life with a bullet to the heart. It should come as no surprise, then, to know that pain and sadness figure prominently among the themes the album explores.
The Flaming Lips' Wayne Michael Coyne sets the mood on the opening track, “Revenge,” with haunting vocals and the statement that, "pain, it's just a matter of sensation." The heartache is tangible. However, thanks to the album’s fantastic cast of contributing artists “Dark Night of the Soul” manages to transcend it’s morose subject matter as each expands and explores the theme on their own terms and in relation to their own experiences. These contributers also give the album much of it’s variety. Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse have provided these artists with a dreamy soundscape of highly texturized folk-pop full of ethereal piano, echoing guitar, ominous organs, and a random assortment of samples and static. Danger Mouse’s preternatural sense for rhythm and flow serves as a foundation on which the featured artists add their own personal styles, resulting in a cohesive, yet highly diverse sound. The bubbly optimism in “Just War” (feat. Gruff Rhys of Super Furry animals) stands in stark contrast to Iggy Pop’s hard-rocking “Pain” and the psychedelic eccentricities of James Mercer’s “Insane Lullaby,” yet they manage to feel like a part of a whole, rather than a mixtape of random songs, thanks to the direction of both Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse.
“The Dark Night of the Soul” is a sprawling masterpiece. It’s strange history and dark past only add to it’s dream-like atmosphere, while numerous guest appearances provide personality and variety rivaled by few. Though it may not appeal to everyone, “Dark Night of the Soul,” comes highly recommended, if you can endure the melancholy.