Music Review: Twin Peaks Soundtrack Live, Manchester Camerata, Yes
If ever a television series was to pass across the flat screen looking glass to haunt the reality that watched it, it would be Twin Peaks. Unlike anything else when it was first transmitted, the singular creation of David Lynch and Mark Frost shifted genre and tone, time and place, the everyday and the uncanny. If darkness could bleed through into the daydreams of a homecoming queen, if people could fall out of the world, why might not such a reality slip into this one? Why not especially on All Hallow’s Eve when tradition insists that the doorway between this world and the next is easiest to cross?
The Pink Room at Manchester’s Yes is lit and decorated to evoke its Red counterpart within the show, although serving cocktails themed after Norma’s Cherry Pie and greeting the audience with a saxophonist displaced from Lynch’s filmic Lost Highway means that the ambience is more in keeping with the series’ Roadhouse bar.
Fittingly, the audience drawn to the event would not be wholly out of place in that establishment, ranging in age from those old enough to have been transfixed by the first series’ terrestrial transmission to those converted by the programme’s remarkable third season, Return. A devout few have taken the trouble to dress up for the occasion, in outfits marked out in the scarlets and chevrons of the Red Room’s unhomely interior. The atmosphere this creates is oddly reverential, the pre-performance conversation quiet enough to hear a cocktail being shaken.
Manchester Camerata looks the part, black clad, red-lit and serene as sphinxes on the Pink Room stage. Prolific collaborators, the ensemble is accustomed to performing in untraditional orchestral spaces, skirting the borderlands of the cultural and the popular.
Angelo Badalamenti, the soundtrack’s composer, is one of Lynch’s longest-standing collaborators. Having initially come together on 1986’s Blue Velvet, he and the self-declared non-musician Lynch have developed a shared musical language, painting from a palette of primary colour touchstones; the Duane Eddy twang of 50s pop, the disreputable swing of lounge jazz and the sweep of Hollywood strings. For Twin Peaks, they used the shift and interplay of these elements to create a world within a world, a dream within a dream.
Conjured to be the very air that the townsfolk breathe, how does it fare shorn from their words and actions?
Inevitably, the most effective pieces are those most closely tethered to either character or mood. The main theme itself is a wonderful achievement, at once setting itself apart from the brash fanfare of more typical TV openings; even uncoupled from the sawmill visuals of the credits it distils a specific sense of displaced timelessness entirely in keeping with Lynch and Frost’s oddly bobby sox-ed late 80s. Like a lullaby, it suggests the reverie that it bookends.
Arguably less resonant are detours into the polished bebop of untainted jazz. While performed with undoubted accomplishment, within a Lynchian context their straightforwardness is rendered less compelling.
It’s a shame, too, that the absence of a vocalist ensures that Julee Cruise’s mesmeric torch song to romantic abandon, Falling, must go unperformed. To summon its presence would have elevated the performance into something wholly extraordinary.
Even with its finest moment unsung, the Camerata merits the resulting ovation. In Lynch’s worlds, capture is always deferred and closure is invariably contingent, but if only for an hour the musicians have opened the doorway to his ominous spaces and ushered it from the Great Northern Hotel to the great English North – an invitation surely to love.
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