Personnel: Jamie Stewart (vocals, guitar, synthesizer, drum machine); Angela Seo (piano, synthesizer, cymbals); Shayna Dunkelman (synthesizer, vibraphone, drum set, percussion); Jherek Bischoff (double bass, bass guitar).
Audio Mixer: Greg Saunier.
If any act is suited to reinterpret the sounds of David Lynch's most enduring cultural artifact, it's Xiu Xiu. Many artists inspired by the director's surreal imagery and music are satisfied with creating a hazy atmosphere that only reflects the prettiest parts of his work, but Jamie Stewart and company are unafraid to be as terrifying, ugly, and just plain weird as Lynch can be. And, as previous covers like their reworking of "Under Pressure" have shown, they're not scared of tampering with a classic, either. On Plays the Music of Twin Peaks, they remake artfully chosen tracks from Twin Peaks and Fire Walk with Me in their own raw, unpredictable fashion. As they remove these songs from their original gauzy perfection, the band remains just faithful enough to what made Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti's music so iconic. On "Laura Palmer's Theme," Xiu Xiu makes the descent implied by its famous piano motif steeper and deeper with jarring crash cymbals, while a vibraphone sets the air in motion like a breeze through the pines. On "Falling," they tap into the song's flickering hope and vulnerability so ably that the indelible refrain "don't let yourself be hurt this time" could have been penned by Stewart himself. There's also a sense of fun on the album that many Lynch devotees lack; with a few wild synths and noisy beats, Xiu Xiu turns "Audrey's Dance" into industrial lounge music. Instrumentals like these allow the band the widest berth for reinvention, whether they transform "Dance of the Dream Man" into slow-burning noise jazz or render "Nightsea Wind" -- a song that was composed for Fire Walk with Me but released years later -- in weightless drones. The layers of fuzz and static coating the album suggest Xiu Xiu recorded it on the set of Eraserhead, but these rough textures only make tracks such as "Harold's Theme" more haunting. When the band adds vocals to the mix, however, the results aren't always successful; Stewart brings the right amount of theatrical flair to "Sycamore Tree," and sounds like he's duetting with himself on "Into the Night," but his bellowing and the sing-song delivery of Laura Palmer's diary entries on "Josie's Past" are reminders of how difficult it is to out-weird Lynch. Nevertheless, Xiu Xiu Plays the Music of Twin Peaks is an inspired showcase for the band's range, as well as an homage that's true to both artists' muses. ~ Heather Phares