NY Conversation March 2012

NY Conversation pulled out every remotely pull-able stop to try to be the person to speak to David Lynch about his debut album Crazy Clown Time. Not because Crazy Clown Time is a particularly brilliant album — it isn’t, although it’s entertainingly deranged at times — but because NY Conversation is the sort of Lynch fanatic who will, as previously chronicled in this column, actually find the house in which Lost Highway was filmed and then just sort of sit out the front gurgling for a while.

Sadly, despite the frantic pulling of stops, no NY Conversation David Lynch interview was forthcoming. This is a shame, because apart from just basking in the great man’s presence and asking tentatively if he wouldn’t mind reading the weather for us, we would have loved to hear his take on what might be called, for want of a better term, the Lynchification of pop culture. Although Lynch himself hasn’t made a film since Inland Empire in 2006, his influence continues to be felt — perhaps not so much in the world of cinema, where fewer and fewer films seem to fall between the poles of megabudget blockbusters and cutesy low-budget indie, but definitely in the world of music.

Tim Jonze wrote a fine piece in the Guardian a few months back about how the likes of Chelsea Wolfe, Dirty Beaches and (gulp) Lana Del Rey reference both the music of Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti, and also the director’s general aesthetic. Without meaning to blow our own trumpet, Ewing also makes a point that this column made our 2010 end-of-year wrap-up — that the two most prominent movements of the last couple of years, viz. chillwave and witch house, share both a sense of nostalgia and a palpable but indefinable sense of unease. This idea of some nameless horror lurking under an ostensibly idyllic surface — the ear in the grass of middle America — is, of course, quintessential Lynch.

These ideas of a pervasive Lynch influence on popular culture aren’t new, of course — the late and great David Foster Wallace discussed them in”David Lynch Keeps His Head”, his spectacular 1996 essay for Premiere, in which he devoted an entire section to exactly what the term “Lynchian” meant (to wit: “a particular kind of irony where the very macabre and the very mundane combine in such a way as to reveal the former’s perpetual containment within the latter”). Meanwhile, there’s probably an entire erudite tome just waiting to be written about how influential the eerie atmospheric sound design for Eraserhead has been on the likes of everyone for Trent Reznor to Hype Williams (the band, that is, not the ’90s video director.)

Sadly, such an analysis is beyond the remit of this column, but the reason I’m writing about Lynch this month is that there’s just been a month-long retrospective of all things Lynchian at NYC downtown cultural centre 92YTribeca, including an appearance from Sheryl “Laura Palmer” Lee, a 20th anniversary screening of Fire Walk With Me and, most intriguingly, a live re-soundtracking of the Twin Peaks pilot by topically-monikered electronic duo (and friends of NY Conversation) Silent Drape Runners. The duo’s set mixed live vocals and a smattering of covers with what was essentially an eclectic and absorbing DJ set, matching contemporary tunes to scenes from the show (which played on a big screen throughout.)

It’s ambitious to take on the challenge of re-soundtracking a show that’s known almost as well for its music as it is for its iconic murder mystery and endlessly quotable dialogue, but as it turned out, the most striking thing about the whole event was just how much of today’s music sounded just perfect for Twin Peaks. Salem? Check. An a capella cover of “Dream a Little Dream of Me” sung over Oneohtrix Point Never’s “Replica”? Check. A drag remix for Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”, for Chrissakes? Yep. Worked a treat.

A lot of this, of course, is down to the track selection and some pretty impressive mixing, but it’s also a measure of how DFW’s definition of Lynchian pretty much describes a whole swathe of popular culture these days, not to mention a whole lot of public life (take the Republican primary “race”, which is basically both as macabre and as mundane as it’s possible for anything to get, ever.) Not all of this can necessarily be put down to Lynch’s influence, of course, but it does emphasise the fact that he’s been making films that comment on and capture the fundamental weirdness at the heart of culture for the best part of 35 years. Which means that it’s a fine time to be revisiting Twin Peaks and the rest of his ouevre — in 2012, it seems, the world is more Lynchian than ever.


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