Xiu Xiu plays the Music of Twin Peaks

This is yet another one of these if-only-I-knew-I-would-have-flown-to-Australia moments. The current tally of these moments is mortifying to me, but it’s an ongoing reminder of the negligence placed on things we love. But love and desire unfortunately keeps us alive. And kills us. And there are few better illustrations of this than in the world of Twin Peaks.

And perhaps few can cover the music of Twin Peaks as formidably as Xiu Xiu, the trio taking their unsettling noise pop into that very loved, confronting and culturally pervasive psi-fi world. Here they perform and discuss their project commissioned for the David Lynch: Between Two Worlds exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art, Australia last year.

An undocumentoided excerpt of the show is below which includes my personal favourite The Pink Room from Fire Walk With Me.

I particularly enjoyed the disconcerting version of Sycamore Trees which featured in the final episode of Twin Peaks season 2. Here, the late ‘Little’ Jimmy Scott lent his exceptional voice to a prelude to what follows as the most terrifying sequence in mainstream television.

The KLF

One day in 1987, in amongst the UK spring, a couple of mysteriosos named “King Boy D” and “Rockman Rock” dropped All You Need Is Love on an unsuspecting music scene. A joyously reckless chop-cut of sampling everyone from The Beatles, MC5 and English titty-model-cum-pop-starlet Samantha Fox with King Boy D rhyming a mad web of chaotic ’80s intrigue about AIDS, relentless shagging and the apocalypse; a Scottish version of Ad Rock fast-referencing the Illuminatus! trilogy without pause for breath.

That summer their debut album 1987 (What the Fuck Is Going On?) was released, filled with illegal and remorseless sampling, which excited the music press and inspired sample-fevered UK acts Bomb The Bass and Pop Will Eat Itself amongst many others. One song The Queen and I excited the legal team of ABBA in the wrong way, due to it’s liberal sound-biting of their single Dancing Queen. Now outed as music industry as music industry veterans Bill Drummond (King Boy D) and Jimmy Cauty (Rockman Rock), they found their new release forced off the shelves by legal action. An attempt to negotiate with ABBA in Sweden failed to go anywhere, so Bill and Jimmy burnt the many copies of 1987 they had with them, dumping the rest overboard on the ferry trip back to the British Isles. This was both the beginning and the shape of things to come, every album destined to meet its own kind of Eschaton.

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 That following summer, MDMA was in full swing across the nation and everyone knew what the fuck was going on. Especially Bill and Jimmy. They were now destined to rule the music charts worldwide. Resurging as “Time Boy” and “Lord Rock” a.k.a The Time Lords, they unleashed Doctorin’ the Tardis which utilised the British sci-fi icon Doctor Who as its muse. Drummond admitted the “lowest common denominator” element of the single, which naturally rewarded it with #1 status in the UK and NZ, plus top 10 status in Australia and Norway.

No favour was found in the music press for a deliberate chunk of trash like this, however fun it might have been, but Time Boy and Lord Rock now had the financial fuel to power up to the next level of chart dominance. The following year they published The Manual (How to Have a Number One the Easy Way) which contains the bold proclamation: “WE GUARANTEE THAT WE WILL REFUND THE COMPLETE PRICE OF THIS MANUAL IF YOU ARE UNABLE TO ACHIEVE A NUMBER ONE SINGLE IN THE OFFICIAL (GALLUP) U.K. CHARTS WITHIN THREE MONTHS OF THE PURCHASE OF THIS MANUAL AND ON CONDITION THAT YOU HAVE FULFILLED OUR INSTRUCTIONS TO THE LETTER.”

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With ’88 showering the kids of the day in ecstasy, Cauty and Drummond labelled themselves the KLF and sought to be an experience of that new & momentous dance music ethos. ‘Pure Trance’ prototypes of 3am Eternal and What Time Is Love?, pressed to vinyl, found their ways to Technics decks of DJs throughout the land and offshore with acclaim steadily building. Ever the Situationists, they threw £1 notes to the partygoers at a rave in Oxfordshire with “Children, we love you” written on each one.

At this time Cauty was collaborating with Alex Paterson as The Orb, evolving a new sound of”ambient house” as an alternative aural immersion to the relentless kick of four-to-the-floor club music. Soon attracting full rooms at each monthly Land Of Oz party in London, another branch had grown on the tree of UK electronic music and The Orb released A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld the following year and the 22 minute astral-coaster for all drugs/occasions found its way to #78 on the UK charts.

By 1990 an album deal was offered to The Orb. Cauty had wanted The Orb to release via KLF Communications, but Paterson feared the ambient wonder child would become a mere adjunct of The KLF. Thus music history was created: Paterson left Cauty taking The Orb name with him and ascending the beam of light of the ambient house sound, whilst Cauty surgeoned out Patersons contributions to a number of live sessions and items recorded at his studio ‘Trancentral’ which then became The KLF’s first album Chill Out.

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During the time leading up to the release of Chill Out, the KLF had been burning through their Timelords riches with an attempt at creating an ambient road movie called The White Room. It found no formal release, but the soundtrack contained the raw elements which subsequently went into Chill Out. A change of tack and adherence to the doctrine in The Manual was demanded. A new sound called “Stadium House” was the answer. The Stadium House Trilogy was the medium. Chart glory was again the result. What Time Is Love? and then 3AM Eternal were mutated into inescapable crowd-pleasers, thus proving the perfection of the formula. The top spots were again theirs. The White Room (the album) was released in 1991 and still hardly anybody really knew, or cared, who Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty really were…..there was only the music. And the money.

Before the year ended they reworked Justified and Ancient from The White Room album and bewilderingly included US country music superstar Tammy Wynette as the lead vocalist. All in amongst this, the persistent music video themes of mysticism, the lost continent of Mu, trans-cultural priestesses and priests and shamans dancing on pyramids were pumping unexpected & unprecedented levels of counter-cultural memes into the cortices of pop consumers worldwide. The release of America: What Time Is Love? showed their blatant willingness to employ the use of repetition in their sounds, as proof that repetition does indeed work, but now also taking interesting risks by involving former Deep Purple vocalist Glenn Hughes. The music video also presents an accurate (to me) telling of how Vikings discovered North America a millennium ago.

In amongst all this the art aspect of the KLF continued, almost deliberately hidden. Limited releases of The White Room ambient road trip movie were deployed to VHS, as was recording of Waiting for the Rights of Mu which contains the three-quarters-of-an-hour soundscape Waiting and the ambienbt spoken word Rites of Mu. The half hour version Rites of Mu is narrated by Martin Sheen channeling a post- Vietnam Captain Willard, now an enlightened solider of the unknown on one final whiskey bender into the lost gates of esoteric mystery.

A video version was also available as a nugget of insight as to what the KLF supposed themselves to be up to, albeit with a different narrator. The video documents a mock pagan ritual, where the KLF invited music journalists to the island of Jura off the coast to Scotland to partake in burning of a wicker man during the summer solstice of 1991.

1992 was to mean the end of the KLF. And it was deliberate. Invited to perform at the BRIT awards in front of the collected luminaries of the UK music industry, KLF invited grindcore act Extreme Noise Terror to perform with them. The result was a complete, unrelenting murder of landmark single 3AM Eternal culminating in Drummond firing an M16 loaded with blanks at the audience at the conclusion of the song. Drummond had introduced the song with “THIS is television freedom!” after all.

KLF left the stage and left the music business. In deleting the KLF back-catalogue from existence, The K Foundation was then born.

In the years following, The K Foundation endeavored to spend their KLF fortunes on art subversion and counter-media campaigns. This ascended into the artwork Nailed To A Wall, where £1,000,000 was hammered into a framed board. No gallery seemed willing to exhibit it. So on 23rd August 1994, the KLF returned to Jura and filmed the destruction by burning of £1,000,000.

After exhibiting the film and answering questions after each screening, the K Foundation was wound up in 1995. According the legend set by Drummond and Cauty themselves, a contract was signed on the bonnet of a rented card by the both of them agreeing a moratorium on K Foundation activities for 23 years. The car was then said to have been pushed off a cliff.

Like Grant Morrison and Alan Moore in 2000AD, these guys help to seed a counter-culture-to-be in the generation now risen. The UK’s “hidden reverse” in plain sight. Roll on 2018.

Magma

Magma came to my attention via an occultist friend of mine who has given me awareness of bands and artists too numerous to mention, but too essential to wonder how ever did without them in my life. Magma was formed at the tail-end of the ’60s by French drummer Christian Vander, which includes the distinction of the language of many of their songs being a fictional construct created (and often sung) by Vander himself: Kobaïan. Vander tells of the genesis of Magma as a result of an unsettling “vision of humanity’s spiritual and ecological future” of a ruined Earth and thus many of their albums tell the tale of the planet Kobaïa settled by human beings and their struggles when other Earth refugees make their way into the presence of the established Kobaïan people.

This sort of esotericism meets progressive rock meets the psy-fi of Timothy Leary seems like a pre-emptive set of soundtracks for the modern metaphysical counter-culture, does it not? Christian Vander once stated in an interview: “It is difficult to define what music is. Music is life. Music contains all secrets of life. It is man’s clearest way of expression. Music can contain both life and death. Music is an extension of your self, of your way of expression.” When it sounds this good then I think one wouldn’t think twice about joining the cult.

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Magma are sometimes slotted into convenient genre crates such as progressive-rock or jazz-fusion but their sound became known as Zeuhl (a Kobaïan word meaning “celestial”) , which other French bands of the ’70s became associated under that tag. Zeuhl is science-fiction rock opera, mad improvisation, elegant choral arrangements and stately combinations of common instruments into a sensitive and moving whole. I sometimes wonder if Pink Floyd happened to be listening…..

In 1970 they released their debut album Magma, which later was later re-released as Kobaïa. Vander had wanted to fill the void left by the death of grandmaster John Coltrane, so jazz expositions permeate the first foray into Kobaïan vocals which actually sound like a kind of African-American devotional groove at that point in time. Three years later their Mëkanïk Dëstruktïẁ Kömmandöh was released and cemented Zeuhl as a wonderous story-telling experience of a future that may yet be revealed, but in a tongue that perhaps was still yet to be understood by anyone.

This performance from 1977  (Paris) illuminates this very clearly:

( Part 2 | Part 3 | and to show that they continue to excel, a performance of the same album from 2000)

With the drizzles of estoterics (for example, this effervescent paean to 19th century French mystic Eliphas Levi) and the extraterrestrial operatics, the exotic talent of the group as a whole are not overshadowed given the extent which they can channel the raw elements of rock, jazz and the universality of rhythm into raucous excitement. These snapshots in time typify the sport of journey that Magma can enthrall audiences and expose potentialities of unbridled creativity. Especially when Mr Vander leaves the drum kit to one side or to another and takes the microphone on his own psychic trip.

Unfortunately they never found the commercial success they might well have deserved for their ingenuity, thus disbanding in 1977 yet persisting in various offshoots until 1983. Vander managed to pull the group together again in 1996, with their sound having drawn in a new generation of fans. With the release of Félicité Thösz last year, Magma still continue recording and performing and inspiring to this very day.

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Dälek

Given that this blog is named after a Dälek song, then my own personal etiquette insists that this unique hip-hop treasure is the first post off the ranks.

Dälek proved a recent smokey addition to the regular listening routine of 2011; I was sold on the first hit. Instantly involving, demanding and distinctive, there is indeed a next level of noise above the beats and lyrical prose that has an eerie combination of education on history and reality, calls to arms and the occasional emotional  punch equivalent to a good Twin Peaks scene. A random journey through their catalogue will inform one to just how richly diverse and musically revolutionary the world of hip-hop can really be, if you’re willing to look in the first place.

Dälek (pronounced ‘Die-a-leck’) are a duo comprised of producer Oktopus and lyricist MC Dälek, who have been operating since releasing their premiere EP Negro Necro Nekros in 1998, taking a few cues from the trip-hop aesthetic that was soaring at the time. Since then their signature sound has become elegantly soaked in shoegaze and industrial textures, seamlessly mated with classic hallmarks of hip-hop cut-scratch sampling. One is treated to potent hip-hop beats, distortion soundscapes that only an army of guitars could achieve, middle-eastern and Indian music sample infusions and pensive ambient discourse.

But if you really want potent lyrical discourse, MC  Dälek serves it up in spades. Words of gritty urban seething, mystic unlocking through forgotten tongues, togetherness and ponderous utterings. Heady and exciting stuff, much of the time. As their (properly-enunciated) name suggests, Dälek are particularly concerned with the vitality of language and lament the loss of ancient tongues and untainted culture. To which these songs will attest….

With their  love of musical experience spanning quite wide, Dälek has ventured readily outside the realms of hip-hop to produce, re-produce and tour with other acts of seemingly incongruent genres, such as Isis, Godflesh and even Tool. On the excellent Deadverse Massive vol. 1, the depth of their remixing and collaboration (intermingled with some Dälek specials) is spread as a sweet mesmerising chutney over the platter of your beat sensibilities. A superb example their recreation of Enon’s whimsical pop-rock single In This City into a slow, atmospheric pot of poignancy.

Their full train of tracks possesses a depth charge of  tunes for almost any occasion or state of mind, with the tracktimes trucking between 3-4 minute attention grabbers to their 44 minute Untitled album from 2010.

So if you’re really loving hip-hop, or just curious and open, take a ride through the Dälek catalogue. As one Youtube commenter has said: “Under rated.. under appreciated.. under dog.. under ground.. people who know: know.”

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