Pop & Hiss

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Danger Mouse, Sparklehorse's Mark Linkous and David Lynch bring 'Dark Night of the Soul' to L.A.

May 27, 2009 |  7:52 pm


While the title suggests a melancholy-drenched LiveJournal post, “Dark Night of the Soul” is actually the latest offering from Gnarls Barkley’s Danger Mouse (real name: Brian Burton) and Mark Linkous, the enigmatic frontman for Sparklehorse. The pair crafted an album layered in pulsing electronics, insistent rhythms and at times urgent guitar, with a roster of guest vocalists including Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle, Julian Casablancas of the Strokes, Frank Black, Suzanne Vega, Iggy Pop and Scott Spillane of Neutral Milk Hotel.

Artist and film auteur David Lynch also contributes vocals, and was inspired enough to shoot haunting and atmospheric photographs to accompany the songs. Fifty-seven deliciously creepy stills — like a blurred face frozen in a scream or a dinner table interrupted by the presence of a severed head — have been bound in a limited-edition book, also called “Dark Night of the Soul.” On Saturday, the Michael Kohn Gallery exhibits the collaboration, displaying Lynch’s photos mounted on aluminum, while tracks from the album stream through the space. Eerie imagery and music pregnant with tension? Sounds pretty Lynchian.

But not everyone is enthused.

Danger Mouse’s label, EMI, has since stalled the album’s release, offering the following statement: "Due to an ongoing dispute with Danger Mouse's management, we have been unable to release the recorded music for 'Dark Night of the Soul.' Danger Mouse is a brilliant, talented artist for whom we have enormous respect. We continue to make every effort to resolve this situation ... meanwhile, we need to reserve our rights."

EMI and Danger Mouse's sore relations are rooted in the Mouse's "The Grey Album," a mash-up of the Beatles' "White Album" with Jay-Z's "The Black Album." The 2004 breakout that topped many critic's year-end lists angered the conglomerate, which holds the rights to the Beatles' recordings.

So rather than offer the “Dark Night of the Soul” book with the music tucked into the jacket sleeve, the tome will contain a blank CD-R accompanied by a very unsubtle suggestion from the artists to go steal the music from the Interwebs. (Meanwhile, NPR is streaming it for free.)

That angsty title, by the way, is an age-old term referring to the bleak mental state that follows spiritual disillusionment. If this were a Lynch film, perhaps a record label executive might stand in for a vengeful, omnipotent God figure. And there’d be a guy hiding behind a curtain and a dwarf talking backwards. And maybe some pie.

-- Alie Ward

“Dark Night of the Soul” opens at the Michael Kohn Gallery on Saturday, May 30, from 5-7 p.m. The exhibit runs through July 11.

Photo: Danger Mouse in 2004. Credit: Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times