Albums Of The Week: Twin Peaks soundtrack is a trip to an alternate universe

Chromatics are an electronic music band from Portland, fronted by singer Ruth Radelet.
Chromatics are an electronic music band from Portland, fronted by singer Ruth Radelet.PHOTO: ITALIANS DO IT BETTER

The music calms, beguiles, drops all sorts of hints and red herrings. Anyone can saunter into the Roadhouse, a fictional tavern in the southern part of Twin Peaks, Washington, not far from the "Welcome to Twin Peaks" sign, and expect the unexpected.

You are either in danger or in denial, but you don't care. Such is the goodness woven by David Lynch and his co-conspirator Mark Frost at the legendary venue in the return of the iconic series Twin Peaks.

In the original series from the 1990s, the Roadhouse was a place of refuge, providing temporal protection from danger seeping from outside.

In the latest series, something is clearly rotten at its core, with its audience - a hologrammatic turn of bikers, lovers and criminals - in varying degrees of decay, visible or otherwise.

Is the Roadhouse real or really just a projection for a particular character's dissociative identity disorder, where patrons have been reconstituted?

Who knows? The music remains a touchstone for the series' moral ambivalence, a cipher for whatever subtext you read into it. It is fluid and open-ended. It permeates. Curated by Lynch with an aesthete's ear for beauty and its unpleasant undercurrents, the songs reveal an alterna-universe, heaven or hell, or a purgatorial land.



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The soundtrack opens with the iconic Main Theme by Angelo Badalamenti, its fluvial synths and subterranean bassline quickly juxtaposed with a 2015 track, Shadow, by mysterious Portland dream-pop rockers, Chromatics.

"I took your picture from the frame/And now you're just nothing like you seem/Your shadow fell like last night's rain," sings Ruth Radelet over a wintry spell of snappish percussion and faraway synths. Her dreamy chirp lulls one into the trap of nostalgia.

Similarly, the past and the present converge in Mississippi, an Everly Brothers-sounding song by The Cactus Blossoms, a young, brotherly duo from Minneapolis.

Their perfect retro-harmony and acoustic crispness contrast with the cirrus-soft synths of Lark, an electro-pop missive by the Brooklyn trio Au Revoir Simone.

Other more well-known musicians, such as Shawn Colvin and Eddie Vedder, turn up at the Roadhouse without much fuss. Indie-rock star Sharon Van Etten unwinds her leonine purr over a Roadhouse Mix of Tarifa; industrial-rock gods Nine Inch Nails unleash a snarling version of She's Gone Away from their 2016 EP, Not The Actual Events; and hirsute Texan band ZZ Top deliver a febrile Sharp-Dressed Man, a male fantasy no less. It comes full circle with original Twin Peaks siren Julee Cruise reprising her 1989 track The World Spins.

Family, old friends and enemies have all colluded in this cycle of frisky encounters.

Meanwhile, the bar's house band - a punk-blues trio called Trouble, comprising Riley Lynch, the film-maker's son, Alex Zhang Hungtai (aka Dirty Beaches) and Lynch's sound engineer Dean Hurley - take everyone into the deep end of the night.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 27, 2017, with the headline 'A trip to an alternate universe'. Subscribe