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This is a sprawling album. Not a mind-expanding one or a record to take a brisk jog around the park with, but music to stare at the old java lamp and wonder about things like life, death and the point of having breakfast.

music Updated: Aug 21, 2010 11:12 IST
Indrajit Hazra
Indrajit Hazra
Hindustan Times

Dark Night of the Soul
Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse
EMI, Rs 395
Rating: ***

This is a sprawling album. Not a mind-expanding one or a record to take a brisk jog around the park with, but music to stare at the old java lamp and wonder about things like life, death and the point of having breakfast. Danger Mouse — whether in his retro-fitted relationship as one half of Gnarls Barkley or as our generation's version of producer Phil 'Wall of Sound' Spector or as the other half of Broken Bells — is the music world's grand ringmaster. In this project, he teams up with the now defunct indie war nag Sparklehorse, and the late Sparklehorse frontman Mark Linkous (who killed himself in March), and the two write, compose and produce songs for various artists for a soundtrack for a film that could have been made by David Lynch, the other artistic collaborator on this enterprise.

Dark Night of the Soul has its army of guest artists. And Danger Mouse and Linkous have tailormade music to suit the genres of musicians as diverse as Susan Vega and The Flaming Lips and Iggy Pop. The consequence is one sprawling fairground with various tents for various tastes but all marked 'indie'.

The spool starts rolling with the warm fuzzy 'Flaming Lips' sound — and no wonder, considering vocalist Wayne Coyne spacewalks his way with "Pain/ I guess it's a matter of sensation/ But somehow/ You have a way of avoiding it all" in 'Revenge'. After that 'John Lennon-still-in-the-Dakota Building' sounding number, there's the dust-crawler of 'Just war' with Super Furry Animals' Gruff Rhys and fellow Welshman Zabrinski frontman Matthew Durbridge doing an alt-psych move. We move further underwater with Grandaddy frontman Jason Lytle stretching out a slo-mo folksy cautionary tale for a suburban collegeboy in 'Jaykub'. 'Little Girl' has Julian Casablancas of the Strokes do an innocuous little boogie-woogie twist.

It is left to the great Black Francis of the Pixies to get something ballsy going in 'Angel's harp'. No more meadowy cow music for wistful indie-lovers. What you get instead is a grating howl: "Pluckin' all day on my angel's harp/ Shoutin' at the rising moon/ Knowin' that I will soon stay/ At the edge of the plain, on the top of the scarp/ I'm pluckin' all day on my angel's harp." Caconofonix has gone punk.

Big guy Iggy Pop is rolled out in 'Pain'. But apart from the staccato-marked baritone, we find Iggy playing to a role: of Iggy, the angry old man with his veins showing.

'Everytime I am with you' is a lo-fi sigh by Lytle again, the kind of arty song I've grown to become tired of. James Mercer reunites with his Broken Bells partner Danger Mouse and does a D-side Sgt Pepper number in 'Insane lullaby' whose music sounds perfect for a scene from a period movie with Helena Bonham Carter and Kenneth Branagh in it. The late Linkous proves to be mini-majestic in 'Daddy's gone'. For one, it's a good tune; for another, it's more than just emotions leaking from a pipe like most of the other songs in the album.

Susan 'Luka' Vega brings some mint freshness in 'Man who played god' even as she spreads her shimmering notes against the wind of the pluckety music. Alternate country musician Vic Chesnutt plays a poor man's Tom Waits in 'Grim augury' and comes across as a busker under an empty bus station with visions of grandeur.

Auteur-filmmaker and the photographer who provided the visuals to a limited edition book-plus-CD version of Dark Night of the Soul, David Lynch provides some atmospherics with his performance art-songs with requisite soundscapes in 'Star eyes (I can't catch it) and the title song. The album tries its best to sound unreachable and monk-like. Barring Black Francis and a couple of others, it manages that well. For those into expansive spaces, be my guest while I move on to a smaller room.

Virgin, Rs 395
Rating: *

M.I.A. Culpa
Well, if it's Brit-Sri Lankan singer M.I.A. playing in the room, I've entered the wrong room. M.I.A. a.k.a. Maya Arulpragasam has moved gears from the time she teamed up with Fatboy Rah a.k.a. A.R. Rahman in Slumdog Millionaire's 'O...Saya', she certainly isn't suited for this car.

In Maya, M.I.A. gets more 'political' with a corresponding, er, industrial pop sound. She's traded her frenetic, wickedness of her 2007 album Kala for this boring bling. "When I met Seagrams/ Sent Chivas down my spine/ Got me on the dance floor/ then we start to wine." Will someone get me a drink!

First Published: Aug 20, 2010 23:37 IST