Last Saturday's Dark Night of the Soul opening at LA's Michael Kohn Gallery, featuring the work of David Lynch, Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse, wasn't just the hot event ticket of the weekend, it was one of the greatest save's in music history.
Dark Night of the Soul probably would have been one of the most-anticipated albums of 2009 regardless of the drama surrounding it. Created by Danger Mouse, who first wowed the mash-up generation with The Grey Album and went on to score mega-hits with Gorillaz album Demon Days and Gnarls Barkley, and indie darling Sparklehorse, the album features an A-list roster of guest vocalists, including Iggy Pop, Frank Black and even famed director David Lynch. The latter, who recently worked with Moby on his video “Shot in the Back of the Head,” also contributed a collection of photographs illustrating each track.
But then, for some vague “legal reason” or other, the album was caught in record label limbo. Instead, a blank CD-R with the message “For Legal Reasons, enclosed CD-R contains no music. Use it as you will,” will be available through the Dark Night of the Soul website, either with a poster or a photo book, depending on your price range.
Pre-orders of the blank CD-R sets won't ship until June 15, but chances are strong that you've already heard the music through NPR's stream or some other means. And if you were part of the hefty crowd walking in and around the Beverly Blvd. gallery on Saturday, then you had the chance to experience Dark Night of the Soul in a way that few others would.
The new album played continuously throughout the party, but this wasn't a simple listening party/art opening, the design of the space forced attendees to actively experience the album.
Lynch's photos are arranged in groups of three or four. Each set is unique in theme, mood and narrative, depicting the song from the album with the matching title. However, they were not arranged in accordance with the track listing. Instead, a small blue light flashes above the photos when the corresponding piece of music is played. In order to get a feel for the album, participants must dart back and forth between two rooms looking for a neon blue twinkle. The hunt is part of the fun.
As The Stroke's Julian Casablancas calls out “you twisted little girl” in “Little Girl”, Lynch takes us
to a retro suburban barbecue where the presumed hostess dances while her face melts. Frank Black's gravelly vocals and the distorted guitars on “Angel's Harp” are visualized as a vegetable stand set against the dusty landscape of what looks like a drought-stricken Southern California. The slow, hazy groove of “Everytime I'm with You,” featuring Grandaddy's Jason Lytle unfolds as a series of shots taken from the intersection of Santa Monica and El Centro in Hollywood, an ambulance and a dilapidated bar popping in the foreground. As with Lynch's more recent work, the images hold a surrealistic familiarity for LA residents, putting a local face on music.
Those who missed Saturday's opening still have a chance to take in this multi-media collaboration. Dark Night of the Soul remains at Michael Kohn Gallery through July 11. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays.