Once an artist’s name starts being used as short hand for an aesthetic, you can pretty much assume that said artist has got something special; a remarkable, unique way of going about things (even if that remarkable, unique way is making everything on screen go BOOOOM for ever; stand up Michael Bey). ‘Lynchian’ has long since passed into currency as an adjective to describe a certain type of artwork – it’s pinned on anything uneasy and surreal, a nod to David Lynch’s mastery of imbuing his work with a weirdness, a weirdness that is made all the more disconcerting by it's eerily close proximity to normality.
In this sense, Polish Night Music is nowhere near a Lynchian product. A double LP of music Lynch recorded with Polish concert pianist Marek Zebrowski, Polish Night Music is all of Lynch’s sinister instincts with none of the touches of light and humour that balance his work out. Instead you get four sides of moody atonal drone, occasional creaking effects, and piano tinkles that sound like an arthritic cat dying, very slowly, on the keys. It’s the kind of music that Lynch might place against a pastel hued town scene in Twin Peaks to create a sense of horrible juxtaposition. Tou can easily imagine it soundtracking a scene in Inland Empire, the movie Lynch was working on when he first met and collaborated with Zebrowski. But alone, stripped of visual counterpoint, it’s relentless – and, dare I say it, a little bit dull. There’s no denying the talent in the room, obviously Lynch and Zebrowski are masters of their art, but there’s also no denying that the project veers towards the self-indulgent. As you’re checking once more to see whether you remembered to turn the record over, only to realise that, yes, side three is almost exactly the same collection of misery drone and directionless tinkle as side one, you start wondering if Polish Night Music is an elaborate joke from Lynch.
I’m as willing to be blind to David Lynch’s faults as anyone, but Polish Night Music is a step too far for me. It has remained an obscure CD release for the last 9 years, and I can’t imagine that this would have changed if it had been made by anyone else. That’s not to say the release is a disaster; it’s an effective, if unsubtle piece of creepy soundscape, and listening to one track is a pleasing dip into Lynch’s sense of the horror underpinning the everyday. But with David Lynch expectations run high, and over 4 sides the album proves one dimensional; a single idea dragged out to tedium. Compared to his work with Angelo Badalamenti, or his own recent solo experiments with electro, Polish Night Music is a non-essential edition to Lynch’s canon. It will please the purists but leave most cold.
Polish Night Music is released now through Sacred Bones - pick up a copy here