Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse's project hits a contractual snag.
Call it this year's most notable cross-species creative partnership: When
Grammy-winning studio whiz Danger Mouse reached out to musical surrealist
Sparklehorse about a possible collaboration in 2004, the stated intention was to
make music, not art.
But that's not exactly how things panned
After roping in 11 indie rock and alt-country star pals on two
continents to contribute guest vocals, the duo produced an album's worth of
atmospheric soundscapes. Then Danger Mouse, who is one-half of the
hip-hop-psych-soul duo Gnarls Barkley, called on idiosyncratic director David
Lynch to "visually interpret" the tunes with photos.
Many of Lynch's 53
images are theatrically stage-lit and peopled with costumed extras in intimate,
transitional moments. Others capture scenes of suburban torpor, skid row
decrepitude and giddy enactments out of some weird hyper-realm.
photographs are a representation of what went on in my head when I heard the
songs," said Lynch. "It all came from the music."
The fruit of the trio's
labor is a multimedia gallery installation titled "Dark Night of the Soul,"
opening today at Michael Kohn Gallery in L.A. A limited-edition bound book of
Lynch's imagery of the same name was released earlier this month. And in a
widely Twittered-about ongoing dispute between Danger Mouse's management and his
record label, EMI, the music has been embargoed from distribution.
project began when Danger Mouse, a.k.a. Brian Burton, met the manager for
Sparklehorse, a.k.a. Mark Linkous, at the South by Southwest Music Festival in
Austin, Texas, in 2004. Burton told her how much he admired the reclusive
musician's ability to marry "harsh distorted sound and static" with the delicate
nature of his voice. Afterward, the manager passed Linkous a CD of Burton's
breakthrough recording, the so-called Gray Album, his bootleg mash-up of the
Beatles' "White Album" with rap a cappellas from Jay-Z's "The Black Album."
It set the two on a collision course.
"I thought the music was
fantastic without knowing anything about who Danger Mouse was. I thought it was
a band," Linkous recalled. "[Burton] said he was a fan and wanted to take my
music in another direction. And he said, 'Don't be surprised if I'm at your
studio next week.' I live in the middle of nowhere in North Carolina. But there
Burton acknowledged that his motives weren't totally unselfish.
"Back then, people I wanted to work with were people I wanted to learn from," he
said. "Rather than try my best to copy him sound-wise, I wanted to learn to see
how he did what he did -- in songwriting and in sound."
result was four songs on Sparklehorse's favorably reviewed 2006 album, "Dreamt
for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain." But the two exacting
musician-producers -- both known for demanding final say behind the studio
control console -- felt a kind of musical kinship.
Near the end of
recording, Linkous, 42, and Burton, 31, hatched the idea to record their own
album but clashed on what animal hybrid to name their outfit after. "I always
liked Sparkle Mouse. He liked Dangerhorse," Burton said.
When most of the
tracks were done, the two solicited help from friends from across the musical
spectrum to provide vocals: Julian Casablancas of the Strokes; Iggy Pop; James
Mercer, singer-guitarist for the Shins; Nina Persson of the Cardigans; Suzanne
Vega; Grandaddy chief songwriter Jason Lytle; Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd of
the Flaming Lips; Black Francis, formerly of the Pixies; singer-songwriter Vic
Chesnutt; and Gruff Rhys from Super Furry Animals.