David Lynch’s Eraserhead is still my favourite film from the acclaimed director, closely tied with the Hollywood noir-narcotised Mulholland Drive. I mention it because an accompanying soundtrack has recently been released on vinyl (digital download included) via Sacred Bones Records, thirty-five years since the film’s original release.
The film’s sound designer, Alan Splet, worked with Lynch to soundtrack the film’s anxious surrealism. The result is both soothing and horrifying: one moment we’re witnessing the lead protagonist Henry as he tries to cope with early fatherhood in a cramped little apartment/bedsit. The cries of his abnormal, ‘E.T. as an infant’ child (what the hell is that thing!?) are supplemented by the distant hiss of factories and dense industrial churn. We’re always subtly aware that Henry’s universe is a frayed nightmare-thread away from our own: any dialogue in the film is rendered askew by responses that don’t feel entirely lucid, and no-one questions the freaky deformity of the ‘baby’ except us as viewers.
Henry occasionally finds succour from the puffy-faced lady that lives in his radiator, who sings him a song; a weirdly ambiguous organ-lullaby that features Peter Ivers (yes, a dude) on vocals. The lyrics, ‘In Heaven, everything is fine. In Heaven, everything is fine. You’ve got your good things. And I’ve got mine.’ manage to sound both settling and sinister at the same time. This piece of music is included on the soundtrack, which is comprised of a ‘16 page booklet, three 11″ x 11″ prints, digital download, & a limited-edition Peter Ivers 7″ of “In Heaven” b/w a newly unearthed Ivers recording taken from the original soundtrack audio tapes.’
It may be contradictory for me to describe the music as beautifully bleak (with some shameless alliteration to boot) but it is an unusually immersive listen. ‘Early industrial’ is probably the genre-label I should be stamping on this as a quick-fix descriptor, and if you have seen the film (and if you haven’t, you must) then this is highly recommended.