First of all a disclaimer. I am not proficient in the use of musical jargon and phrasing so I apologise. However I really enjoyed this album and wanted to share my opinions of this album with you.
I've already spoken at length here about my love for Twin Peaks and there are many more eloquent articles and video essays on why Twin Peaks was such a ground-breaking genre-blurring show than I could ever hope to surpass with my own ramblings here. The show was the first attempt to bring art-house vision to the American mainstream. However despite what it meant and what it did one of the aspects that raised it above the norm was its amazingly eclectic soundtrack by Angelo Badalamenti.
Xiu Xiu, an American experimental noise pop band (hey, it's what it says on Wikipedia, I didn't just make that up) with aback catalogue of varying success and ardent fan-base, took up the mantle to reinterpret the iconic score for the Australian Gallery of Modern Arts for their David Lynch: Between Two Worlds exhibition. I didn't know about Xiu Xiu and only heard about them through the release of this album but whilst researching them I can see why they were chosen to reinterpret the Twin Peaks score, the founding member Jamie Stewart is a bit of a maverick and is truly experiental, sometimes his music works out and sometimes it doesn't but he is a true musical pioneer in a way that David Lynch is with film and Angelo Badalamenti with music. So against this backdrop how does the music fare?
Well Xiu Xiu succeed in creating a solid album which captures the eerily spirit of original tracks whilst adding their own twist on it.
The album sounds like a live recording which gives it a real sense of presence.
They open with an instrumental version of Laura's Theme rather than the expected Falling, so they set their stall out early on that this is not just going to ride the the wave of nostalgia but be something more, something interesting and different. Laura's Theme is a great opener and portentious of what is about to come. It has a light metronymic sound which carries the pulse of the track forward, but all the while it is undercut with this sense of dread. It doesn't sound like it should work from my description but it really does, the grand blending in with the lighter moments of the piano motif.
Into The Night is suitably dreamy and whilst Julee Cruise's voice is hard to too their interpretation is similarly haunting and will stick with you for a long time. It I the beat track on the album in my opinion.
Audrey's Dance is still suitably jazzy with a cacophony of sounds blending in and out regular instruments include theharmonica but more unusual sounds are there including some that sound distinctly industrial.
Track four, Packard's Vibration is a powerful with a driving base underlying the squealing guitar sounds and some more spacy sound effects courtesy of synths.
Nightsea Wind starts like a soundscape with gentle sounds slowly giving way to crunchier synth sounds and squeals.
Blue Frank/ Pink Room is a bluesy number pushed forward by a powerful electric guitar sound. The bass and the backing beat stay true to the original track but what comes on top is totally different.
Sycamore Tree starts of with a fast flurry of piano notes and then the vocals come in, raspy and powerful without sounding contrived or fake. The song is a welcome calm respite in a sea of powerful noise and crunches.
Harold's Theme is beautiful, one of my favourites. It starts of with a gentle piano and synth distortion that brings to mind the works of Haim Saban and Shuki Levy's score for The Mysterious Cities of Gold and Ulysses 31 or Decoder Ring unfamilair with the animated series stated. The track has a gentle piano motif playing through and the synths emerge gently and disappear. Just beautiful.
Dance of the Dream Man starts off like a classical piece of music with deep heavy piano notes that give way to lighter piano but then the electric guitar and synths kick in and there are moments of jazz and quiet, the cymbals gently being brushed to give it a shimmering otherworldly feel.
Track 10 is the stunning Falling, the vocals are good and powerful but never soaring like Julee Cruise. They lyrics and the power of the song carry this along, and when the chorus hits it is stunning... Not Julee Cruise but stunning nonetheless with the beautiful vibrato adding more gravitas.
The eleventh track, Love Theme/ Farewell is elegant and beautiful as always but it seems to have been played with a distorted kids mini Casio keyboard. Not a bad thing but just... different.
The final track, Josie's Past, is a bit of a strange unsettling track. It features several minutes of spoken dialogue from 'The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer' spoken in stilted English accent, broken by a short burst of Mairzy Doats by Stewart. I didn't take to it and it is the stuff that you will hear in the darkest night in your nightmares but at least it is daring and tells you about the abuse and exploitation she suffers at the hand of Bob.
Overall the album is a beautiful unsettling pleasure. It evokes the best of Badalamenti's music and the unsettling soundscapes of Xiu Xiu's sound to create a modern rough sheen to what is truly one of the best soundtracks of all time. Now I'm off to listen to more of Xiu Xiu's back catalogue to see if I've discovered a new band for me to follow.