For the love of Lynch

By Tania Herbert

A gig touting “The Music of Twin Peaks” is always going to bring out the cool creatures, and this was a solid display of Melbourne’s pre-hipster arthouse crowd. The show opens with a projection screen looking up a staircase, with a revolving fan and fading light. A deep booming repetitive base note sounds out for several minutes.

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Then enter Xiu Xiu, an insanely good-looking trio of artists (Jamie Stewart, Angela Seo and Shayna Dunkelman), who take us through a reinterpretation of the music, sounds and poetry in a musical episode of David Lynch’s cult masterpiece Twin Peaks.

The gig was an extremely theatrical and slick program of music, with pieces floating between romantic classical to smooth jazz, to grunge rock to experimental soundscape – with a bit of spoken word in case there wasn’t already enough range.

Rich, complex, even funny in moments, the quirky mystery and depth of Twin Peaks was caught in full. The multimedia was simple, but cool and ambient and complemented the wonderful performance and wacky onstage antics the performers added to each number.

It wasn’t a great start in terms of sound – the balance was way off, with ear-piercing percussion meaning the piano couldn’t be heard, feedback issues and indecipherable vocals. However, credit to the sound crew – it was rapidly sorted through the first couple of numbers, after which the balance was spot on to bring out the most interesting parts of what was often a cacophony of sound.  The vocal clarity was never quite resolved, though this was only a slight detraction from a masterful musical performance.

The gig was supported by a work by Alessandro Cortini from Italy, with a 45-minute sonic-dreamscape composition set to Italian Super-8 home videos from the family archives of the artist. The piece was all about the contrast – videos of children playing the snow or families at the beach against the extreme intense music – creating a set-up where you found yourself feeling intense anticipation for what was to happen next, even though these were simple home movies. Musically, it’s a style I personally find becomes repetitive and I didn’t feel it built much – it felt more like an interactive museum piece, but was certainly a good ‘stage setter’ for the show to come.

Looking around midway through Xiu Xiu’s performance, I see a crowd of arty people in a high- domed, red-velvet-draped reclaimed electrical substation, all standing stock-still and staring upwards, mesmerised by black and white footage of a ceiling fan and a series of random noises… it was deliciously David Lynch-y.

Xiu Xiu was a reminder that the music of Twin Peaks is definitely concert-worthy – particularly when captured in such a great piece of musical performance art.

Xiu Xiu is playing tonight (Friday 23 June as a double bill with Sarah Davachi (Canada)

Date:       Thu 22 – Fri 23 June, 8pm
Tickets:   $45 plus booking fee
Bookings: www.thesubstation.org.au