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Sparklehorse - Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain

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Artist: Sparklehorse

Album: Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain

Label: Astralwerks

Review date: Nov. 13, 2006

It's been five years since we last heard from everyone's favorite downer poet Mark Linkous and his Sparklehorse. This time around, he cast the net widely for collaborators, roping in everyone from producer Dangermouse to Steven Drozd, Dave Fridmann, and even a piano-plinking appearance from Tom Waits. Most of the songs were produced and recorded by Linkous at his own Static King studios, but it's a tribute to his singular focus that even those recorded elsewhere or produced by Dangermouse or Fridmann don't sound out of place.

On first listen, I felt that Dreamt didn't have the consistency of 2001's It's a Wonderful Life, a personal favorite of mine, but really it's that a number of the songs here take more time to sink in. Certainly, the opener "Don't Take my Sunshine Away" is a clear high point, a Beatles-esque song with a steady rhythm and guitar/keys worthy of Abbey Road, complete with a wonderful vocal harmony in the chorus. While the abrupt dive into broken-up, distorted guitar might seem a little contrived, it's nonetheless startling and effective. "Shade and Honey" is another that must be singled out, a gorgeously melancholy piece of gentle guitar with a wavering lead melody over burbling synth and a particularly heartfelt example of Linkous' careworn vocals. Songs like "Knives of Summertime,” "Some Sweet Day,” and "Return to Me" take a bit more time to reveal their pleasantries, which rest in the details.

Others are iffier propositions. "Ghost in the Sky" is a distorted rocker that seems a bit of an odd man out, and the brittle production of "It's Not So Hard" seems all splashy cymbals and studio ambience. "Morning Hollow" is a long, slow dose of melancholy that, despite the nicely counter-pointed vocals from Sophie Michelitsianos, still plods its way to the post-seven-minute conclusion. The title track is wisely placed at the end, for it's a different beast than the rest of the album. Over 10 minutes long, it's a dreamy wash of sound floating on wavery mellotron and reverbed piano, dotted with disconcerting moments of silence and crackling static. The song has a certain beauty to it, but as its placement indicates, it's a coda, an instrumental conclusion.

Ultimately, Dreamt will reward those who spend time with it, and Sparklehorse fans won't be disappointed. Others who merely dip into it may leave puzzled and unsure, and won't know what they're missing.

By Mason Jones

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