We’ve heard lots of ideas for alternative musical distribution in the digital age, but this has to be a less popular idea:

How about “releasing” your album as a blank, recordable CD-R?

If you think about it, it’s the natural evolution of CDs. After all, in the age of widespread digital download stores and file sharing, if you bother to buy a physical CD, aren’t you really buying it just for that jewel box and liner notes and packaging, for that satisfying snap as the disc hits the plastic spindle? Aren’t you just doing it to flirt with the CD shop girl … erm, or to look into the morose, cynical eyes of that guy who knows way more than you do?

In this case, though, the blank CD has a simple function: it’s the only way to get around legal troubles with record label EMI.

New Danger Mouse CD Released As A Blank CD-R Due To Legal Fight With EMI [techdirt, via atariboy on Twitter]

Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse unveil new album – a blank CD-R! [guardian.co.uk]

Danger Mouse has flirted with legal troubles before, with the landmark Jay-Z – Beatles Black Album / White Album mash-up, and has flirted with success as Gnarls Barkley with Cee-Lo Green. The new album is a departure, an audiovisual experience that adds photography by David Lynch inspired by the music. Yes, that’s the David Lynch, he of Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet and Eraserhead.  Danger Mouse works with Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse and a host of guest vocalists.

Update: Whoops. Danger Mouse just isn’t as ground-breaking as The Residents, who tried Internet distribution with accompanying blank CDRs way back in 2006 on “The River of Crime! Episodes 1-5.” (And I imagine there may be other cases of this, too.) Of course, The Residents were just being creative – they didn’t have an unspecified legal battle with EMI. From Discogs:

This 2-CDR set was released as blank media, to be burned as eventual hard copies and packaging for the River Of Crime tracks, that were distributed via the internet, in a subscription series, each “CrimeCast” episode being released every two weeks, over a 10-week period. These subscription downloads also included exclusive material, including scripts, icons and CRT wallpaper, as well as unrelated bonus tracks. The track marked * was not released on the “standard” release (CDL38).

Thanks to B.C. Thunderthud for the tip (and I see a Boing Boing reader caught the same thing).

The news came over our Twitter feed via Jaymis, which also prompted a discussion of how to get and decompress the tracks.

No stranger to legal issues and the resulting release challenges, here’s one way you could “release” Danger Mouse’s previous work. (Got your inkjet printer warmed up?) Photo (CC) miskan.

On vocals: Frank Black (The Pixies) Wayne Coyne, Gruff Rhys, Jason Lytle (Grandaddy), Julian Casablancas (The Strokes), Black Francis, Iggy Pop, James Mercer (The Shins), Nina Persson (The Cardigans), Suzanne Vega, and Vic Chesnutt. On a first listen, it sounds oddly like a soundtrack for a set of David Lynch photographs, a moody and quirky set of tunes, in beautiful, rusting pop. It’s a set of familiar voices from the last decade or so, blended into reflective cuts. Sometimes the production feels a little overcrowded, and there is a sameness to bits of the album, but the whole thing is heartfelt and the vocal personalities and rich set of ideas carry the day.

You do get something if you buy the full CD – just not music. Lynch’s photographs will be printed in a 100+-page book which the artist promises will be limited edition and hand-numbered. The CD itself will be a blank, recordable CD-R labeled ‘For Legal Reasons, enclosed CD-R contains no music. Use it as you will.’ It isn’t cheap: US$50 for the whole release. You can pre-order now.

Dark Night of The Soul Official Album Page

So far, there’s no word as to what this legal dispute actually is. But to me, the ultimate irony is that, while EMI and Danger Mouse have whatever legal battle they’re having, the distribution idea itself may be really brilliant. By its absence, the music – now available easily via file sharing networks – almost suggests that you should buy the object. In an age when we don’t sit down and listen to almost anything, it really does suggest sitting on the couch with a loved one, paging through David Lynch photos and letting music wash over you. (The stills so far look just like you’d hope from David Lynch, like movie stills you could stare at for an entire song.) I think that’s a more important story than the usual legal snideness.

David Lynch, director and photographer, in Brazil. Photo (CC.Vini

Now, how about getting the actual music, since it apparently won’t be available for sale? So far, you can find it via two routes:

The legal way: NPR (US National Public Radio) is hosting an authorized stream of the music online, for some unspecified period of time.

Exclusive First Listen: Danger Mouse And Sparklehorse Team Up With David Lynch

The physical object is due out in summer.

The illegal way: Given that I suspect quite a few of you will go buy this $50 book, I’ll do something I usually don’t and point out that, yes, you can pirate this album (and, indeed, may have to if this isn’t resolved). I’ve already seen a filedropper link, which is still working for me. Your favorite filesharing service should also do the trick.

If you do happen across (cough) an RAR file, try 7-zip on Windows (also recently ported to Linux, I think), WinRAR/RAR for Windows/Linux, or The Unarchiver for Mac.

It’ll be interesting to see if the press gets EMI to find a quick resolution and a commercial release. Given the success of Internet buzz for previous outings, this may wind up being great news for sales of a normal release. Stay tuned.