Cult With No Name: Blue Velvet Revisited

Kino-Teatr, St. Leonards-on-Sea - 23 August 2019

"A magical evening"

This evening was a rare opportunity to see a screening of the award-winning feature-length documentary film Blue Velvet Revisited, accompanied by a live set and Q+A from the soundtrack composers Cult With No Name. It also provided me with another welcome chance to revisit my childhood holiday destination of neighbouring Hastings, and check out the wonderful-looking Kino-Teatr cinema.

In 2012, Cult With No Name (Erik Stein and Jon Boux) released their fifth album Above As Below. A couple of years later, inspired by the track As Below, German filmmaker Peter Braatz commissioned the duo to produce a soundtrack for his forthcoming feature length documentary Blue Velvet Revisited. Filmed entirely on set in 1985 during the making of David Lynch's masterpiece Blue Velvet, Braatz was given unrestricted access to set, cast, crew and director, collating hours of behind-the-scenes footage, in-depth interviews and over a thousand photographs.

Cult With No Name invited comrades Tuxedomoon to join them in producing the score, and electronic legend John Foxx also contributed a track. The resulting soundtrack, released in 2015 (one year ahead of the film is comes from) sees both groups and Foxx at the peak of their creative powers, producing a score that is evocative, dark and dreamy.

dsoaudio gig photo
   Cult With No Name Kino Teatr St Leonards on Sea
Photos [L-R]: Kino-Teatr, Tonight! Cult With No Name

I've been following (and championing) Cult With No Name since 2007's debut album Paper Wraps Rock, and I'm a massive David Lynch fan, counting Blue Velvet as one of favourite films of all time. So when I heard that Stein and Boux were working on the soundtrack to Blue Velvet Revisited I was thrilled for them and excited for myself. And yet, to date, I'd still not seen the documentary.

That was partly through choice, as I wanted to see it first on the big screen. But I lost count of how many times there was a screening that I might have gotten to, but which fell on a date that clashed with my availability.

Around this time of year (the August Bank Holiday weekend) you can usually find me at the Infest festival in Bradford. However, this year I decided to skip the trip up to North Yorkshire. So, when this date was announced I was delighted I was free and determined to go. 

Cult With No Name's score delivers in spades. Not only is it as atmospheric as you'd hope, but it undoubtedly contains some of their finest writing. Having immersed myself in the soundtrack for the best part of four years, I actually found it an advantage not having seen the film before this screening. It meant I could focus more on Braatz's work and visuals and absorb the music more subconsciously.

The format of the evening was that Cult With No Name would perform a live set, followed by the screenings and concluding with a Q+A with the band afterwards. For me, this was as near to a perfect evening as I could wish for. It contained so many of the things I love. The venue, the Kino-Teatr was a magical space. A former Curzon cinema, now independent, its striking interiors of exposed steel, bare brickwork out front juxtaposed with the sumptuousness of it's gorgeous screening room, complete with bar at the back and individual leather armchairs in the front row. The gorgeous curved wooden ticket booth standing in front of the entrance to the theatre was delightful.

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Photos [L-R]: Cult With No Name, Jon Boux

I've seen Cult With No Name on many occasions, and often in distinctive and memorable venues. Tonight added to that tally impressively.

Their setlist wasn't exclusively tracks from the soundtrack. Interestingly, they chose to open with Under The Dirt which actually features on their first soundtrack to 2010 reissue of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari on DVD. Although a vocal song, it does have a decidedly filmic quality (as indeed does much of their writing), so was the ideal intro.

Three tracks from the score featured here. Including Alligator Briefcase - which Stein introduced as the first ever live performance of the track. So Fucking Suave and No News were the other two. Hope Is Existence, from Above As Below (the album which originally inspired director Braatz). When I Was A Girl from their most recent album Heir of The Dog. Lies-All-Lies-All-Lies, mesmeric song from their fourth, and probably my most admired, album Adrenalin. Swept Away, from their sixth album Another Landing was the penultimate track.

Although No News was composed for the film, it wasn't included in the soundtrack release. Popping up instead as the closing track on 2017's Heir Of The Dog. In essence, it is a simply-constructed song, with minimal lyrics; the most memorable of which are the title itself, a two-word refrain. I'd heard it live before, but Stein's voice here was as rich as it has ever sounded. Adding, to what is essentially a lament, an appropriate and satisfying depth. A just reward on which to finish their live performance.

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Photos [L-R]: Erik Stein, post gig

It was only when CWNN arrived at the venue earlier today that they discovered there was a grand piano in the screening room. Since much of their composition revolves around a piano (or at least a piano sound) they just had to commission it. Hastily getting it miked up so they it could be used during their set. So it was that Jon played grand piano on So Fucking Suave and Swept Away.

A full critique of Blue Velvet Revisited is beyond the scope of this review, but here's a few thoughts.

It has been rightly billed as a 'mediation on a movie', a notice to anyone expecting a conventional 'making-of' documentary. Edited into 'chapters', the titles of which are copied from Cult With No Name's track titles (since their score was completed and delivered to Braatz a year before the film was finally released), although not entirely abstract, it is as much of a visual poem as a record of events.

The precious, candid footage, photographs and interviews Braatz was fortunate enough to capture, gradually build into a picture of how the production came together.

It's a pleasure seeing Lynch so happy with how the production is progressing; saying it has been just the easiest and most enjoyable production he's ever worked on. Hearing Cult With No Name's music on screen was an almost surreal experience. In part because I am now so familiar with the score, but know it purely as an auditory experience, but also hearing it alongside watching such magical footage of a youthful Lynch operating at the pinnacle of his talents.

The Q+A that followed the screening gave the audience, me included (and more than once), time to delve a bit deeper into several points of interest. Including how the commissioning of the soundtrack came about in the first place (turns out Braatz was already a fan of Cult With No Name's work), among other nuggets of production trivia.

As an evening that brought together several of the arts so dear to me, this was hard to beat. Although the location and venue tonight was modest, given some of the prestigious places Braatz's film has been screened in numerous countries around the world, it nevertheless impressed upon me just how far Cult With No Name have come since I first heard them. Tonight was a fitting testament to the creative talents of Boux and Stein, and one I'll cherish forever. 9/10

Set List: Under the Dirt, Alligator Briefcase, Hope is Existence, When I Was a Girl, So Fucking Suave, Lies-All-Lies-All-Lies, Swept Away, No News

Review: Rob Dyer
Photos: Rob Dyer / Jon Boux and Erik Stein photos by Sooxanne Rolfe