Julee Cruise: Floating Into the Night

In April, I hit the half-way mark between 30 and 40. One thing I like about getting to this age is how less seriously I take things.

When I was 18, I thought Julee Cruise’s Floating Into the Night was a moving, haunting listening experience. When I was 28, I thought the album was just part of a silly phase, where I tried to be precocious about "getting" the whole David Lynch thing. (Twin Peaks, anyone?)

So I bought the album on cassette. Then I bought the album on CD. Then I sold the cassette because I don’t listen to cassettes anymore. Then I sold the CD because I was laid off and needed cash. Now I own the CD again, and I’m enjoying it all over.

Perhaps it’s nostalgia. More likely, it’s an appreciation of the judgment I had when I was younger.

Because Floating Into the Night is a haunting album, and it did move me. And that isn’t anything I should dismiss.

It is, however, a rather indulgent album. Cruise was pursuing an acting career when Lynch drafted her to sing the love theme for his film Blue Velvet. Impressed with Cruise’s voice, he and composer Angelo Badalamanti wrote an entire album of material for her, which served more as a vehicle for Lynch’s own works than to launch Cruise as a singer.

"Falling", of course, became the Twin Peaks theme song. "Mysteries of Love" was used in Blue Velvet. And many other tracks were featured in Industrial Symphony No. 1, a play Lynch staged at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1989.

Despite the indulgence, Badalamanti puts some interesting twists and turns in the music. "I Remember" starts off at a steady pace, then abruptly jumps to a be-bop beat before gradually transforming into a doo-wop conclusion. "Rockin’ Back Inside My Heart" features some intrusive horns, while "Into the Night" gets a rude interruption by an overeager orchestral sample.

Lynch won’t give Bob Dylan or Natalie Merchant any sleepless nights, but he does a fine job creating an atmosphere. For her part, Cruise tackles the songs with openness and aplomb. Her understated performance sounds sweet but has enough rawness not to feel affected.

Floating Into the Night is a study in contrasts. The music is deeply rooted in a pre-rock style but feels futuristic. The more avant-garde moments of the album prevent its sparse instrumentation from sagging. And Cruise’s heavily-processed whisper is no display histrionics, but it does far more with way less.