Dirty Beaches make the kind of music you expect to find on a phantom radio station, one that you stumble upon on a summer evening but can then never find again. Fortunately for us, Alex Zhang Hungtai’s music stays put, locatable, for your repeated aural pleasure.
Hungtai’s proclaimed inspirations are primarily films — cinema that features the phantoms and amorphous emotions akin to Dirty Beaches’ style. Specifically, Hungtai has cited Lynchian proclivities, which, indeed, were at the core of his 2011 debut album Badlands. Think dark highways, ladies in thin skirts lit by tobacco-colored headlights, and dotted lines stretching to oblivion. Think Elvis on burn-marked videotape.
But as even Wikipedia reports, Hungtai also sees an aesthetic father figure in the brilliant Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai. So far, “Elizabeth’s Theme” is the Dirty Beaches track that shows this affinity best (or at least, so far as this meek blogger has heard). It’s more Malibu than middle of the macadam, evokes more melancholy than menace. Surely, Wong Kar-wai could — should — stack some silent slow-mo to this single and envision a sleek neck kissed with languor and longing. Whether Dirty Beaches will support an entire full-length with this mood and theatrical scope is yet to be seen, but we sure can hope.
According to Pitchfork, “Elizabeth’s Theme” is part of a singles club release by Kingfisher Bluez, to be dropped on October 9.