Thought Gang is a lost project from the early ‘90s that director David Lynch and composer Angelo Badalamenti worked on while Twin Peaks was coming to an end. The Twin Peaks soundtrack was an ethereal, mysterious, and soothing dream of an album. This new project offers a peek into what happens when the citizens of Twin Peaks have a nightmare. The album is comprised of bizarre free jazz and industrial freakouts, with sprinkles of spoken-word poetry and short stories scattered throughout certain tracks. The spoken-word vocal performances could prove a turn-off for free-jazz enthusiasts, but it enhances the atmosphere of quite a few of the songs.
“One Dog Bark” is a brooding instrumental piece with a lot of attitude. It’s easy to imagine it being the theme for a greaser-type character in a Lynch film. “Woodcutters from Fiery Ships” is a manic track with an intense spoken-word story over urgent instrumentation. This song has a massive sound to it and makes for a strange highlight on the album.
“A Real Indication” is a tense jazz track with a sinister vocal performance. It sounds like the agitated narrator taking a stroll in the middle of a restless night. “Jack Paints It Red” is like a bad trip to the carnival. “Multi-Tempo Wind Boogie” is a nice floaty instrumental. Like the song title suggests (or rather promises), there are multiple tempo changes and has a windy feel to it. It feels like getting lost in a forest while leaves blow around you, your heart rate picking up the more you realize you have no clue where you are.
The last two tracks are the longest. “Frank 2000” is a dark, slow-burning ambient track. At a length of 16 minutes, it takes its time exploring an expansive atmosphere. It sparkles, it steams, it crackles, it thumps, it takes you to all sorts of sonic landscapes. This would make a great soundtrack to a short film by Lynch. If you were to listen to one track off the album, make it this one. “Summer Night Noise” is another lengthy mood piece, calmer than the last track.
Listening to Thought Gang is much like going through a good haunted house. You’ll experience some thrills and be glad you went through it, but you won’t feel compelled to get back in line once you’re out. The atmospheres created on the album can certainly be classified as Lynchian, but it’s more Lost Highway than Twin Peaks. Quite a few of the tracks are meandering and aimless, but create very memorable atmospheres. Thought Gang is recommended for hardcore Lynch enthusiasts.