Produced by Mark Linkous, Danger Mouse and Dave Fridmann
Label – Astralwerks/Caroline/Virgin/EMI
For Sparklehorse fans it’s been a long wait. 5 years since “It’s A Wonderful Life”, Mark Linkous is back with a brand new album. Except it’s not a new album. It’s a mix of the new and some re-recorded songs from the vaults, such as the title track which was originally called “Maxine” from the “Gold Day EP”, and a track from the predecessor (“Morning Hollow”). So why has it took Linkous 5 years to create an album that isn’t strictly a brand new creation. In his own words Linkous explains, “After It’s A Wonderful Life I sunk into a hole I couldn’t get out of. I felt paralysed and couldn’t work for 3 years”. Whether it was depression or writers block that enforced his step back from music isn’t clear, but the catalyst for renewing his energy was of all people Danger Mouse. According to Linkous “He was superb at understanding what I wanted my record to sound like”.
For the uninitiated, Linkous is the King of low-fi, with fractured sounds, odd instrumental pieces, and dreamy, often gloomy lyrics. His previous recordings have shown that he has no fear of sparking off garage guitar works with slow, deliberately paced ballads. Linkous relies more on atmospherics than structure and musical proficiency and this approach has generally proved to be successful. The imaginatively layered addition of odd mellotron sounds and weird vocal manipulation can be overtly experimental, but too many adds an out of world concoction of fuzz and fog.
The collaboration with Danger Mouse brings three new songs. The opener “Don’t Take My Sunshine Away” is surprisingly upbeat for a man who has been in the doldrums for so long. Bearing an uncanny similarity with “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” its penetrating vocal harmonies sound hauntingly beautiful. “Getting It Wrong” is less memorable as it lumbers gloomily along with abstract lyrics that make one realise that if this is some kind of confessional, then lyrically it’s well hidden by mysterious statements that only seem to distance one from the artist. “Mountains” is ruined by a deliberately manufactured sound of static which intermittently overlays the track creating a mess of noise. There’s a melancholic sweetness to “Shade And Honey” and a stark soulfulness to “Return To Me”. The outstanding highlight of the album is “Some Sweet Day”, which is too sweet for words, hiding a serene introspective instrumental melody that gently penetrates and permeates into your heart and mind. It’s such a pity that from the stark beauty of this the album then lurches towards morose, depressing and half hearted ill conceived meandering.
The indie rockers “Ghost In The Sky”, “It’s Not So Hard” and “Knives Of Summertime” lack punch, vigour and depth. There’s an awful monotony to the cover of Jimmy Webb’s “Galveston” but the real desolate, dour and completely forgettable moment of the album comes via the title track. A three chord instrumental that painfully rolls on for over 10 minutes. With an obvious desire for a spatial sound like a Radiohead/Eno crossover, it lingers on and on, until your hope that it fades away is dashed and the initial state of contentment with a fairly creative and likeable album is destroyed by this dark, brooding horror of a song.
For all its grand intentions, “Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountains” leaves one with the most fleeting of half baked impressions.
Don’t Take My Sunshine Away 3:05
Getting It Wrong 2:16
Shade And Honey 4:06
See The Light 3:42
Return To Me 3:18
Some Sweet Day 4:20
Ghost In The Sky 3:28
Morning Hollow 7:23
It’s Not So Hard 2:52
Knives Of Summertime 4:19
Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain 10:35
Don’t Take My Sunshine Away
Getting It Wrong
Some Sweet Day