Twin Peaks. For popular culture fiends its return to our screens recently, as promised some 25 years after it left us, is providing insatiable totally addictive television. Rekindling our relationship with Kyle McLachlan’s FBI agent Dale Cooper, alongside the likes of Hawk, David Lynch himself as Gordon Cole, and even the now middle aged Bobby Briggs is a peculiar kind of nostalgia. It’s a nostalgia for the diverse eccentric townspeople, all of whom were caught up in the discovery and intrigue, as the town was devastated by the mysterious murder of teenager Laura Palmer, but it’s also a nostalgia for how groundbreaking, how totally insane and beautiful the series was. And whilst the new series is distinctly more urban, owing more to Lynch’s recent Inland Empire, what we’ve seen of the series is no less jaw dropping and alien in 2017 – albeit in a totally different way.
Iconic American director, David Lynch’s masterful hand is behind both the old (season 1 and season 2) and the new series. What he managed to create those 25 years earlier was a highly stylised set of episodes that explored both the macabre misfortunes and menacing underbelly of a township seething with motley misgivings.
His success with the series points to the enmeshment of the lens’ of the sexually promiscuous and a mis en scene susceptible to the cinema of 1950s. A more daring juxtaposition television culture had never known. The music, scored by regular Lynch collaborator Angelo Badalamenti (with more than a little input from Lynch himself) quickly became one of the most important elements of the series. Its creepy mournful organ, mischievous jazz, and late night torch songs elevated Lynch’s atmospheric visuals creating a level of emotion rarely experienced in network television. With such an iconic score so firmly etched as part of the Twin Peaks cultural discourse and mythology, messing with it any way is almost sacrilege. Moby barely escaped with his life when he used the string section of Laura Palmer’s theme back in 1991 on his Go remix, though admittedly everyone from the KLF to DJ Shadow have sampled Badalamenti’s distinctive soundtrack. All of which makes
Californian based, experimental noise group Xiu Xiu’s (pronounced Shu Shu) decision to reinterpret Badalamenti’s entire score
Yet for Xiu Xiu the rework possibly seemed the most logical of transgressions. Band founder Jamie Stewart citing David Lynch as one of the biggest influences over his band’s formation.
“It’s his ability to combine, humour, weird sexuality, darkness and evil but also to never really rest on his laurels, I’m not saying that is something that we do but something that we strive to do, he’s a fantastic model for us.”
Stewart also admitting that in a sense the rework (completed by the band between 2012 and 2015) was purely to pay homage to David Lynch and the series.
“We had the opportunity to play it and we owe a tremendous debt to the music and the series in terms of its inspiration to us (as a band), so we attempted to play it as well as we could – being ourselves.” He says speaking from his home in Los Angeles.
The project originated from the band being commissioned by Queensland based cultural curators for GOMA, to complement and align the launch of The David Lynch retrospective exhibition.
The band performed their take on the soundtrack tracks and now two years or so later, Xiu Xiu, return to Australia to perform in what can only be thought of as a perfect location to re-stage the tunes. Mona Fona in Hobart, Tasmania.
Asking Stewart to recollect the process for making the rework he identifies the amount of work and challenge involved for the band, particularly in choosing to take on something so close to the band’s own DNA.
“We had to sit down and think of how we could be ourselves in a world that is so incredibly well known, and the reasons we wanted to be ourselves is because that is something that we learned from watching the series, it would be ridiculous, and would go against what we had learned from the series to go against that – to copy it exactly. “
Stewart claiming that what the band ultimately learned was that the music and series shaped whatever the sound of Xiu Xiu happened to be, so to try to put those two things together, was incredibly challenging.
“We literally sat down at a table with a piece of paper and a pencil and we sketched out what elements of the arrangement we wanted to maintain as it were and what elements of the arrangement we felt like we wanted to explode. It took several several days and rehearsals were quite complicated. We did put a lot of us into it because the show meant so much to us.”
Xiu Xiu perform the following dates for Twin Peaks showcase with special guests:
Hobart – Dark MOFO Sunday 18 June
Melbourne double bill with Alessandro Cortini (ITA) Thursday 22 June
Melbourne double bill with Sarah Davachi (CAN) Friday 23 June
Brisbane – QAGOMA Saturday 24 June
Sydney – Carriageworks Thursday 29 June
Sydney – Carriageworks Friday 30 June