Twin Peaks and the Returnal Noise of Memory

Hypnagogic Pop, Hauntology, and Chillwave all repurpose found mainstream material — 80’s VCR footage and pop songs — for new, sonically and emotionally maculate ends. Detritus of spectral reminiscences become looped, subjected to noise and FX, dubbed into some sort of real virtuality. Sometimes the result is fragmented, expansive – see James Ferraro’s KFC record for such. Sometimes it is focused, yet endless – cf. Oneohtrix Point Never’s ‘Nobody Here’, where a four bar loop from ‘Lady In Red’ overwhelms in repetition, attaining a sort of cosmic pentecostalism (the glo-fi video mirrors the processes and affect of the music). The resources, the bombast, of eighties production techniques and blustery sensibilities are redreamed for a new, shimmering fragility, a curious joy. Our world becomes estranged in the textural flicker of the music, yet it does not turn to the grotesque, rather to a sort of pathetic bliss, a melancholy utopia (though ‘utopia’ glosses over the unexpected political charge many of the tracks glimpse). As history crashes into the wall of time, musicians all over the world (though concentrated in these respects for now in the UK and the USA) are turning the objects of memory into readymades for detourning. As with Man Ray’s objects of affection and Duchamp’s readymades, the new music uses modernist collage and quotation, but woozily here, at an adjunct to a way of being that is unsure of itself, that is sceptical of time.

It is as if these musicians, many of them in their twenties, are the first generation to realise the digital, historiographical charge of the phantasmagoria of their minds. All of our dreams becoming memories, and vice-versa, given the means through the thickening technology museum, given the desire by the secular rapture which our curious age describes to us. The desired delirium of harsh noise music turns anew here, renewed, to a specific abyssal postness (in IDM, Avant-Rock, Hip-Hop, or other forms), a sharpened yet nebulous nostalgic haze for things that never happened, but may yet.

An even stranger memoradelia occurs when, with such thoughts in mind, you go back and consider again some of those readymades (or possible readymades) in their original context. The title sequence of Twin Peaks, for instance, sings of the tragedy of memory, casting forward to Laura Palmer’s talismanic death. This event presages the collapse of a certain parochial way of being for the residents of the town (and for everyone else), whilst at the same time sensually depicting 1990-as-sonic-funeral to us listening now, two decades later. Badalamenti’s famous (and famously haunting) 11-note tremolo guitar tattoo shimmers with the anticipated spectre of memory-collapse, whilst the string synth chords (and the reverbed production) place you squarely in a secure past made all the more poignant by its specificity. The music and the just-distant visual graphics do the job of hypnagogia and chillwave, placing the bank of time and memory in front of your experience, whilst at the same time piercing that bank with the force of an immanence that the new music shades in FX.

The Twin Peaks theme music is like My Bloody Valentine and the Cocteau Twins as imagined by Rothko. You’re put in mind, in fact, of a fiction music. When later in the first episode we see some of the cast in the blue collar Roadhouse bar, the whole bluesy context implodes in the dream textures of the theme music, which returns after much intermittence from Badalamenti’s (equally effective) secondary thematic material, but now diagetic. The band on stage are performing it. The many strands of the programme collapse in on themselves at this point – memory; small town Americana; the grotesque, Weird insistence of the other. It is as if Pynchon’s vision in The Crying of Lot 49 of bars with jukeboxes full of a mysterious electronic music is here made real, only aimed at the electric melancholy of tragedy, not the bite of future-satire.

Hypnagogic pop deals in memory and the fault lines of time. The curvature of cultural space, seen here through the music of Twin Peaks, shows us that it had already been doing this long before its musicians, Sun Araw, Toro Y Moi, Daniel Lopatin, James Ferraro and the rest, began in earnest to work and dream in time.

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One Response to “Twin Peaks and the Returnal Noise of Memory”

  1. Againlude « Robots Dancing Alone Says:

    […] the same time, everything in the process of an amber freeze. (And what’s with the detourned Twin Peaks sample at the end of ‘Crushed’ – it gives what I’m struggling not to […]

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