Title: The Next Peak Vol. 1: Twin Peaks Tribute
Release Date: 2015 Jan 20
License: CC BY-SA
Label: Retro Promenade
The Next Peak Volume 1 is the first of a three volume series dedicated to the Angelo Badalamenti / David Lynch music from the TV series Twin Peaks. The interesting twist to this recording is that it is done in a “retro synthesizer” style: meaning that it is focusing on synthesizer sounds from the 1980’s and 1990’s. How well does the music from Twin Peaks translate in this setting? Read on to find out.
The Next Peak Volume 1: Twin Peaks Tribute
When I saw this release, I thought it was a real risk. There are still, so many years later (nearly twenty five) some exceptionally rabid fans of the original series. I was a big fan when the show aired, and in fact own a copy of the complete series and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me on DVD. (Not to mention owning the soundtracks for both seasons, and the movie.) But, I am not at the level that many of the obsessed fans are. I thought it was also more of a risk with the recent announcement that there will be a new Twin Peaks series coming in 2016.
The first thing I noticed that made a lot of sense was that the track listing, with one exception, is exactly the same as the soundtrack for the first season of the show. A good omen. The only variation was the addition of an instrumental version of ‘Into The Night’, which (as long as it was done well) I figured not even the most hardcore fan would object to.
Things got even better as I started listening. The ‘Twin Peaks Theme’ is very true to the original. It doesn’t quite duplicate the original sound / texture, but it is very close, and quite acceptable for what Retro Promenade is trying to accomplish with this tribute.
I was also extremely pleased with the vocals of Lucy Black and Rat Rios. Again, they aren’t dead ringers for Julee Cruise, but their vocals are true to the original performance by Cruise, and still allow the vocalists a little room for their own talents to shine.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t problems with this release. For example, the version of ‘Laura Palmer’s Theme’ on this release is the exactly the kind of risk-taking that goes wrong. The addition of an 8th note and 16th note bass-line to the piece completely changes the mood of the piece. The original starts dark and mysterious, and turns into this almost angelic quality with a darker aspect to it. The version by Who Ha (aka Mike Mendoza) instead sounds more menacing during the first part, then becomes more frenetic than angelic. At the end of the piece, Mendoza adds a coda to the piece that wasn’t in the original at all, and only serves to enforce my feeling that this is more of a variation on the Laura Palmer theme rather than a recreation / re-imagining of the original.
However, there is another piece that suffers from an even worse set problems on this release: Freshly Squeezed. The big problem with this piece is that the feeling for the instrumentation is all wrong. We have a what sounds like a keyboard playing the top-end line, instead of something that sounds like the flute in the original. And, the vibes part of the song is completely missing. But more than that, the swagger of the original is lost in this arrangement, probably from the very flat walking bass line that doesn’t have anything that even approaches the phrasing of the original. What makes this truly annoying is the attention detail that others put into this work — when you hear ‘Twin Peaks Theme’ rendered so well it’s disappointing to hear this, and almost a slap in the face to have a sample of the original track on the end of this version.
‘The Bookhouse Boys’ is another track that is just disappointing. It is, in fact, so mangled that the original melody is all but recognizable in this version. This is one of those tracks that I actually wish wouldn’t have been included on this release. Surely someone could have done a better version.
I get the idea that this is supposed to be a tribute to the original soundtrack, and not necessarily a completely faithful reproduction. And in many cases it’s successful, even when the original pieces are arranged differently. For example, ‘Into The Dark’ is quite different from the original, however the arrangement works as do the vocals by Lucy Black. But some of the pieces on here are just about unbearable, especially the versions of ‘Laura Palmer’s Theme’, ‘Freshly Squeezed’ and ‘The Bookhouse Boys’. But if you can look past those failings, there are some very enjoyable works on this release, and I will be interested to hear the next two volumes of this series (in fact, Volume 2 just came out and I will be adding it to my queue soon).