Magazine article The New Yorker

Night Life

Magazine article The New Yorker

Night Life

Article excerpt


Wonderful and Strange

Xiu Xiu reinterprets Angelo Badalamenti's classic score for "Twin Peaks."

With the complete two-season run of "Twin Peaks" now streaming on Netflix, and a series reboot slated for 2017, legions of young people are binge-watching David Lynch's classic psychosexual murder soap for the first time. When the thirty-eight-year-old singer Jamie Stewart, the prime mover behind the longstanding experimental rock group Xiu Xiu, first watched "Twin Peaks" in college, on VHS tape, he became unhealthily obsessed. "When I reached the last episode, I was so sad and excited," he recalled recently, seated beneath a domed ceiling in his sunny duplex, in Los Angeles. "But, when I put the final tape in the player, it ate it before I could watch." In a panic, he ripped the top off his VCR, tore out the tape, glued it back together, and ran out to buy a new player. "When I finally watched it, I was deeply moved and satisfied," he said. "I have no regrets for destroying my VCR."

That was in the early aughts, just before Stewart formed Xiu Xiu, and the group's foundational period was acutely informed by the show's sensibility. "We wanted our band to be like 'Twin Peaks,' " he said. "It's very romantic, but also terrifying. It's incredibly funny, but metaphysical. It's darkly sexual, but also kind of cute."

This month, Stewart and the group released "Xiu Xiu Plays the Music of Twin Peaks" (Polyvinyl Records), and they are currently on tour playing Angelo Badalamenti's award-winning score as a trio, with a stop at the Kitchen on April 30. For the album, Xiu Xiu radically reinterpreted the dreamy, low-impact original recordings, incorporating overdriven guitars, piano, synthesizer, vibraphone, and auxiliary percussion. "When we started to do the arrangements, we quickly came to understand that we'd go against the spirit of the show if we played it straight," Stewart said. "We took the harmonic structures, melodies, and words, and added elements that the show originally inspired us to do and made them darker, more intense, more distorted, and louder."

An obvious highlight of the live performance is the show's main theme, "Falling." For many fans, the song's opening chords provoke a stomach-churning emotional response, even when played on tinny computer speakers. Stewart capitalizes on this effect, distorting his electric guitar as the song crescendos, and belting out the vocal line with disarming histrionics. As he said, "It sounds great coming out of the TV, but when it's unbelievably loud it's just stunning."


Musicians and night-club proprietors lead complicated lives; it's advisable to check in advance to confirm engagements.


A veteran of Harlem who caught the tail end of New York's rap dominance (under the guidance of Jay Z's label), and who retained a singular style throughout, Cam'ron leads a boisterous cult of fans in his native city and beyond. His sound has evolved across albums, peaking with the Seussian quips that he rattled off throughout his 2004 release, "Purple Haze," still critically celebrated as a benchmark record. He's recently announced a sequel, and claims that the album will be his last; he kicks off what fans hope won't be a final summer tour with this Manhattan performance. (B. B. King Blues Club & Grill, 237 W. 42nd St. 212-997-4144. April 20.)


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