Twin Peaks

The Smiths’ Sleep aside, there are few pieces that convey the somnabulent mood more effectively than Angelo Badalamenti’s score for David Lynch’s still unsurpassed Twin Peaks TV series.

From the amazingly evocative title tune, through Julie Cruise’s astonishingly opaque vocal performances (Falling, Into The Night), and into those jazz-in-heavy-syrup instrumentals, nocturnal dreams and fantasies permeate this music. It surely must lay claim to the title of the most psychologically effective ambient score ever to reach a mass audience.

I use the word ambient in its fullest sense here – this really is true ambient music that has the virtue of hewing close to the conventions of song, scene background and title score pieces. Much of this effect is due to the effective production, very rich in middle range textures thanks to imaginatively used synthesized strings, and Phil Spector ‘wall-of-sound’-derived mass overdubbing. The obvious retro touches, harking back to 1950s/early1960s song structures, sounds and production techniques, provides nostalgic reference points, with none more effective than the slow Duane Eddy-style low-register guitar twang on the Twin Peaks title cut. The overall effect is uncannily like listening to a jukebox from that period in a smokey hazy bar, dazed with drink and overwhelmed with emotion. Emotions primarily of nostalgia, regret, longing, sadness and loss.

In many ways, the storyline of the T.V. show, with its conventions of murder/victim/detective all present (if thoroughly subverted) is the baldest and most obvious facet of the entire production and serves only as a hook to lead the viewer/listener into a more meaningful exploration of certain psychological states – some of which may have particular resonance with the audience – through the use of symbolism. The show may have lost coherence as it continued, but it never failed to deliver an atmosphere that was capable of transcending those shortfalls.

Much of the credit for this lies with the music.


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