Photo by Thiago Piccoli (originally posted to Flickr as david lynch) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
A David Lynch film is a dreamscape full of terror, beauty, and mystery. Inexplicable body-switching, shadow-groups of strange beings, and odd directorial details combine to create a poetic and dissociative visual narrative The director’s musical albums, like 2013’s The Big Dream and 2011’s Crazy Clown Time, are another method to draw an audience into that same surreal, enticing world.
The bass rumbles like a supernatural engine, creating the heavy ground, the firmament. Jazzy drums, often electronic, fill the landscape with a scattering of shapes and objects. A lonely combination of tickled steel guitar sunsets and surfer rock psychedelia illuminate the dark clouds. Lynch’s reverberating vocals are a weird face in the sky, sad eyes and pleasant smile, singing to us like an alien-robot with a cosmically broken heart.
It’s a really beautiful album, but it can be difficult to adjust to the sound of Lynch’s singing. It’s high-pitched, morbidly nerdy (yet oddly confident), almost droning, processed through multiple effects. It’s a twangy, alien noise and it’s off-putting. But these songs are a slightly disturbing journey into a not-quite-human space, and Lynch is the weird, not-quite-human face in the sky, lulling you to sleep as you drift down this river of sound. It’s a place full of emotion and images, but detached from daily life.
Sometimes in his movies the dialogue feels hokey and unrealistic. Whether intentional or not, this contributes to the dreamlike feeling of the story, reminding the viewer that they are not watching real life. Well, his alien-nerd voice has a similar effect here. This isn’t how humans sing. He drones like a Native American chanting a sad blues song through a dozen effects, backed by an electronic jazz band.
This is the kind of album you probably want to listen to alone, when you want to visit a strange and alien space. Lynch is currently filming new episodes of Twin Peaks, so we’ll be able to visit his world again soon. Until then, these beautiful albums are waiting to be explored.
-> Read Episode 1 of Movie-making Musicians: John Carpenter and Lost Themes (2015)
About the Author
Matt Payne is a self-published author and electronic musician. He lives in Guelph, ON. You can see his work at http://www.pattmayne.com.