The works of the infamous Danger Mouse have often had long and interesting CD release stories, especially as the artist gains fame for his unorthodox methods of sampling and producing music, like his 2005 “The Grey Album,” which used unauthorized Jay-Z and Beatles samples, and was widely available for free online. His newest endeavor, “Dark Night of the Soul,” has been a mystery from the start as word of it first came about through posters distributed at the South by Southwest music festival in March—the posters simply listed the name Danger Mouse, the record producer and member of the crafty R&B duo Gnarls Barkley, as well as the sing-songwriter Sparklehorse (Mark Linkous) and director David Lynch.
First taken as an ad for a musical film, critics and fans alike were kept in the dark about this collaborative work up until a few weeks ago when it was revealed that the project is a large-format book-and-CD package that includes 50 photographs by Lynch, intended to accompany the album’s 13 songs; however, the CD is blank.
Journalists and bloggers had speculated about why Danger Mouse would withdraw the music and make the CDs recordable, as they are shrink-wrapped with a cryptic note reading: “For legal reasons, enclosed CD-R contains no music. Use it as you will,” but all that turned up was a statement on the project’s official website (dnots.com) which stated the typical legal dispute between artist and record label.
Yet, it is these types of controversies that fuel the musical genius, for Danger Mouse has become most successful through failure of official business in order to open the door for notoriety. His somewhat anarchic ways of delivering music set him apart from many mainstream artists out today, especially because “Dark Night of the Soul” was funded solely by Danger Mouse: he paid for all the recording sessions, Mr. Lynch’s photo shoot and the costs of publishing the book. But because of the record label triangle Danger Mouse is in, on top of heated renegotiation talks with EMI, he decided to pull the music from the album so as to not be in breach of any contract. After the release of “The Grey Album,” Danger Mouse was catapulted into fame as high-profile gigs, such as with Gorillaz, gave him a big name in the music industry, particularly after his hit “Crazy” with singer Cee-Lo, which scored No. 1 internationally.
So now it’s time for “Dark Night of the Soul,” an amazing collaborative work featuring such artists as James Mercer of The Shins, The Flaming Lips, Julian Casablancas of The Strokes, Frank Black of The Pixies, Iggy Pop, Suzanne Vega, and many more—making this album a brilliantly haunting mixture of styles that are at times comical, yet still retain a sense of dark and austere sound, with explosive and multi-layered productions that continually get more hypnotizing with every listen. You can order the book, sans music, from the official “Dark Night of the Soul” website; but in the meantime, you can listen to the entire album on NPR.org.