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David LynchAngelo Badalamenti - Thought Gang Music Album Reviews

Between the end of “Twin Peaks” and filming its prequel, David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti made a wild album of sinister spoken-word jazz, available at last.

Soon after television executives pressured the makers of “Twin Peaks” to solve Laura Palmer’s murder midway through the second season, the show came to an abrupt, ignominious end. The creative team of David Lynch and Mark Frost soon pivoted to their full-length film prequel, Fire Walk With Me, but Lynch briefly turn his gaze to another project, too. As a lark, Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti, composer for both the film and show, concocted a musical experiment: The director would dream up some outlandish scenes, and Badalamenti and a crack team of jazz players (including legendary drummer Grady Tate and Herbie Hancock bassist Buster Williams) would provide the soundtrack. “There were no arrangements or preset orchestrations,” Badalamenti told Rolling Stone. “We simply gave a tempo and an initial key to get started and asked them to play what they felt.”

Outside of a few menacing cues that appeared in Fire Walk With Me, the short-lived HBO miniseries “Hotel Room,” and “Twin Peaks: The Return” decades later, Lynch and Badalamenti’s rumored “jazz record” remained unheard. Nearly two decades later, Sacred Bones has pried those sessions from the vaults and presented the full picture of Thought Gang. While Lynch remains the marquee name, this unearthed hour of skin-crawling, malevolent, ludicrously doomy spoken-word jazz mostly reveals the vast range of Badalamenti’s talents—not just as an arranger and player, but also as a menacing vocalist. For many of these improvisations, Badalamenti sends his voice through the kind of busted payphone that Captain Beefheart and Tom Waits often used to garble and distort themselves. So startling is Badalamenti’s vocal turn here that, when a disbelieving Lynch first heard him approach the mic and cast a spell on “A Real Indication,” he laughed until he gave himself a hernia.

Thought Gang avoid the smeared dream-pop collaborations with Julee Cruise and the simmering jazz that propelled “Twin Peaks” and Fire Walk with Me. “Logic and Common Sense” bears the barely controlled careening speed and creeping noir of 1980s downtown-era John Zorn, while “Stalin Revisited” veers from pure noise to skin-prickling bowed bass. The industrial ambient of the epic “Frank 2000” will be familiar to anyone who caught Eraserhead at a midnight screening, its smoggy atmosphere even undiminished by unnecessary slap bass.

“Angelo is going to make a complete fool of himself,” Lynch whispered to his engineer during these sessions. He wasn’t altogether wrong. The set hinges on Badalamenti’s circus geek-like need for debasement before the microphone, his unhinged performances making it grimly fascinating and noxious by turns. He repeats “the black dog runs at night” over rubber-band bass and whispering wind; it goes from grim incantation to irritant in under two minutes. “Woodcutters From Fiery Ships” involves a character named Pete and some cats in his backyard, some menacing woodcutters, a boy bleeding from his mouth, and Pete’s apple pie. Badalamenti’s voice is so distorted he nearly drops the call. As frightful and bewildering as a Dion McGregor nightmare, Thought Gang reveals Lynch and Badalamenti’s shared drive to disrupt any through line or logical outcome, the sounds and words as baffling as dream logic.

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