Experimental noise pop band reimagines cult TV show soundtrack

Photo courtesy of Molly Kiefer/ Pioneer Log

By Molly Kiefer

MY FIRST EXPOSURE to Xiu Xiu was back in 2013 when a high school ex mailed me a very redemptive mixtape, which tracklisted sonic gems such as “The Leanover” by the Glasgow’s now defunct art-rock cult sensation, Life Without Buildings, “Dancepack” by Justin Vernon’s ethereal indie side-project, Volcano Choir, “Open” by the Canadian-Danish gender bending R&B duo, Rhye and – most notably –  “I Luv The Valley Oh!” by the avant-garde noise outfit, Xiu Xiu.

I’ll be the first one to admit that my experimental/lo-fi sensibilities are not quite nuanced enough to “get” most of the work of Xiu Xiu’s frontman, Jamie Stewart. For example, the track “Black Dick” from “Angel Guts: Red Classroom,” which features Stewart whisper-screaming the words “black dick” repeatedly over striped-down drums, and boasts a music video that premiered on PornHub rather than YouTube. However, my current and musically literate bae (who, unlike me, has been known to derive aesthetic pleasure from listening to recordings consisting only of prolonged screaming) assures me that Stewart and his artistic accomplices are “musical geniuses.”  Either way, the more accessible Xiu Xiu tracks are definitely my jam whenever I want to think dark thoughts while waiting for the TriMet.

My introduction to Xiu Xiu happened the same year that my roommate and I watched David Lynch’s Twin Peaks for the very first time. We’d heard the buzz around Lynch’s surreal cult classic drama, and were looking for an activity that could simultaneously drown out the noise of the mice scurrying through the walls of Pondo, and provide a good excuse to consume vast quantities of Fred Meyer brand Swedish fish. Needless to say, whatever our intentions at the start, after watching Twin Peaks our lives were forever changed.

So naturally when I found out that Xiu Xiu was releasing an LP reimagining Angelo Badalamenti’s award-winning score, I lost my mind. The album, “Plays the Music of Twin Peaks,” dropped on April 16, has been surrounded by media hype, because not only does everyone [expletive removed]ing love Twin Peaks, but Xiu Xiu and David Lynch are a match made in heaven. Or, more likely, a match made in inter-dimensional-nightmare-dystopia-future-hell. Since its release, the album has garnered a 7.7 rating from Pitchfork (the self-proclaimed “Most Trusted Voice in Music”) who noted “not only do they capture the haunted spirit of the show, they also provide Xiu Xiu fans with one of their strongest releases in while” – a sentiment which I strongly echo.

Stewart himself has shared stories of being obsessed with Twin Peaks as a college student (when he went so far as to physically destroy his VCR to retrieve the final tape of the series, which had become lodged in the machine and would not play). Stewart also refers to Badalamenti’s score as an original inspiration behind Xiu Xiu’s sonic ideology: “The music of Twin Peaks is everything that we aspire to as musicians and is everything that we want to listen to as music fans,” Stewart told IndieWire. “It is romantic. It is terrifying. It is beautiful. It is unnervingly sexual.”

Darker, louder and freakier than the original score, “Plays the Music of Twin Peaks” is one of Xiu Xiu’s most listenable albums yet – without compromising any of their weirdness. To name just one example, Stewart revisits Leland Palmer’s psychotic break with an even more psychotic rendition of the 1940’s tune “Mairzy Doats.” I would highly recommend checking it out to anyone jonesing for some new high quality, high-intensity Twin Peaks content to tide things over until the reboot next year – or just some fresh material to listen to when that YouTube playlist of “heavy breathing interspersed with the sounds of glass smashing on the driveway of your childhood home” finally loses sparkle.

10/10 would recommend as a tool to sabotage your local frat party

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