- James Binary
Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it, don’t wait for it, just let it happen. Tonight, it’s a ticket to XIU XIU Plays the Music of Twin Peaks at the Kazimier. Originally composed by Angelo Badalamenti and series director David Lynch, the Twin Peaks soundtrack is one that manages to capture all the dynamic emotions of the show with blissful simplicity, from quaint-town jingles of cherry pie and coffee, into murky forests of anger and bereavement, to the white-capped mountains of hope and enlightenment.
Local producer James Binary does a damn good job of setting the atmosphere. Waves of sweeping synthesised bass have The Kazimier quaking. Whilst it may not be the whole crowd’s thing, it sets an undeniable tension and curiosity that is classic Twin Peaks. Sam Wiehl’s visuals, an explosion of shape and colour, are both violent and strangely harrowing. If, as Lynch says, the music has to marry up with the picture, then it’s been skilfully achieved with this short but foreboding set.
The iconic shot of the Palmer household stairs appears in the background. There’s a steady pulse beating out around the room. Xiu Xiu enter the stage to cheers. It starts promisingly well, the sinister keys of Laura Palmer’s Theme taking to the air. Close your eyes: you’re in the woods, the wind howling through the sycamore branches that lash at your snow-cold skin as you run from a shadow you’re not even sure exists. Then the mood changes, the keys seguing into the piece’s dreamy zenith.
Disappointingly, moments like this are few and far between. Gone is the playful, seductive jazz of Audrey’s Waltz, “reinterpreted” with a fuzzy mess of too-quiet bass and too-loud guitar that thaws into indistinct slush. In place of Julee Cruise’s ethereal melodies are Jamie Stewart’s whimpers, so strained they make James Hurley’s home recordings sound like Tom Waits. He even manages to slaughter the theme tune, Falling (while a nearby doe-eyed fan looks on in horror at the butchery of what she calls her favourite-ever song).
There’s a decent version of The Pink Room thrown in for the true Lynchians, but then Stewart breaks into a dance that I can only assume is an homage to the Dream Man’s backwards jive. Instead, it turns out as the awkward spasms of a kid who’s just dropped their first pill. A highlight comes right at the end, as Shayna Dunkelman recites an extract of Laura Palmer’s diary in the character’s sickly-sweet voice. A single brooding chord holds steady in the background, flashes of cymbal here and there. Then, hysterically, and true to the show’s ability to mix the macabre with black comedy, Stewart bursts into a rendition of Mairzy Doats that would make Leland Palmer proud. The band leave to the same pulse that brought them in. Many of the crowd seem satisfied, but there’s a definite sense that some are underwhelmed.
Xiu Xiu are a band in their own right and it would be therefore harsh to judge them by the same criteria as like-for-like cover bands such as Brit Floyd. With the source material available, this could have been so much more. Unfortunately, it ends with the conclusion that an average band have smothered a classic score with fuzz and feedback – poor imitation masquerading as interpretation.