Thom Yorke - Suspiria OST - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Thom Yorke - Suspiria OST

by Tim Sentz Rating:8 Release Date:2018-10-26
Thom Yorke - Suspiria OST
Thom Yorke - Suspiria OST

Soundtracks are one of the strangest beasts in modern music. It used to be that the soundtrack contained a “hit single” that would hopefully have the power to move folks to shell out 13 bucks for a CD. Back in 1997, Titanic’s ”My Heart Will Go On” dominated radio. But somewhere along the line, the soundtrack became just a thrown together marketing tool, with B-sides from revered artists, until 2010 with Trent Reznor started dazzling audiences with striking soundtracks to The Social Network and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. 2018 has seen quite a few original compositions by well-known musicians; Reznor churned out Mid90s, Liars bewildered folks with the 1/1 Soundtrack and the curated Black Panther Soundtrack by Kendrick Lamar earlier this year showcased hip-hops unsung laborers. On top of that, The Coup did a fine job with Janelle Monáe and actor Lakeith Standfield for the Sorry to Bother You Soundtrack.

During the trailer for the remake of Suspiria, at the very end, it’s advertised that the soundtrack is by Thom Yorke, the man-bunned lead singer to the beloved alternative rock band Radiohead. It’s a huge selling point, and the soundtrack surprisingly delivers. There may not be a slew of bangers to be heard, in fact, there are only about 5 songs with legitimate lyrics, a few others with scant vocals, but the flow of Suspiria is astounding. Having not seen the film, since it releases next month, it’s interesting to try to connect the dots of Yorke’s work here.

Obviously, the stand outs are the actual tracks – “Suspirium” was the first taste and a legitimate surprise. A surprise because it ended up being one of the best solo tracks from Thom Yorke in a decade. He’s had his moments with Atoms for Peace, and obviously, Radiohead has a number of classics, but his solo work has always felt half-assed to some. The Eraser from 2006 was wrongly dismissed as a Radiohead B-side collection, and Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes was barely even listened to despite its penchant for wonderful soundscapes and unnerving glitchy-ness. But with “Suspirium,” Yorke puts his voice to his piano keys softly, reminiscent of “the Daily Mail” a B-side for 2011’s The King of Limbs. It works on multiple levels as a soundtrack cut, as well as just a great song for Yorke to bust out on his upcoming solo tour of the U.S.

At nearly 80 minutes, the Suspiria Soundtrack seems to focus heavily on the dance school setting of the film. Many of the shining strings and shrieks background a terrorized school well, and while there’s no visual component yet, visualizing the scenes isn’t that difficult. “Has Ended” is another cut with lyrics, and this one feels very much like a Radiohead song given its inclusion of guitars and vocal manipulations – perhaps In Rainbows era. It’s a good song too, and it should be interesting to see how it fits into Luca Guadagnino’s world.

Back in 1977, pro-rock band Goblin took on the soundtrack duties for the original Dario Argento classic. Their odd time signatures and crunchy guitars were jarring, but they created a chaotic sound to go with a chaotic film. Yorke has done is best to compliment that sound, and for the most part, succeeds. Suspiria’s high points aren’t just the vocalized tracks – “Sabbath Incantation” features echoed church choir vocals that are unintelligible but make us feel like we’re part of Guadagnino’s film all the same. “The Conjuring of Anke” has just angelic melody and piano, but it’s telling that Yorke can render such a beautiful moment from a film so blood-curdling. It’s also interesting to see that he’s removed himself from it in so many ways. Just hearing “The Conjuring of Anke” alone, one wouldn’t be able to deduce it’s Yorke composing it. Instead, we’re lost in the sound, and that’s not an easy thing to accomplish with a soundtrack.

“Unmade” features more vocals from Yorke, this time over more piano but with a more upbeat twist to it. Any one of these songs would be perfect for a Yorke solo show, so the fact that they are nestled in here and not on an album is peculiar but also a treat. None of them are rock songs, they feature bare instrumentation, usually piano or synth or glitch, but they are all fully realized compositions. There are parts of the soundtrack where he threw in actual knife plunges into flesh for good measure, to fully absorb us into the world created. It may come off as cheesy to some, but the intent is admirable.

At the center of this two-disc soundtrack is “Volk” a pre-release single that strikes the balance of what Yorke is trying to convey. Devoid of vocals, it features Yorke at his best composer wise. There are horns, clashes, bangs, but also light piano. This can only be utilized for the most intense scene in the film. This is then countered with “The Balance of Things,” another mostly instrumental track that contains a warm synth combined with sitar. Yorke does sing, but it’s more of a mantra – almost indecipherable, but harmonic with the rest of the track.

The title track “Suspirium” is revisited on the second disc, but it seems stretched further than before, a reinterpretation that still maintains the original – similar to how Deerhunter took “Calvary Scars” on Microcastle and envisioned it for Weird Era Cont. with “Calvary Scars II.” It keeps the original concept, it just expands it to grander, more operatic formations. All of these are building to the monster track “A Choir of One” – a near 15-minute instrumental that seems ripped directly from Goblin’s score. It’s glitchy, full of dread, but also has angelic vocals returning, all coming together. It’s stomach churning in spots, making one feel just as uncomfortable as Suzy Bannion did in the original film.  

Suspiria doesn’t have 79 minutes of Radiohead songs, which is a good thing. It’ll be likely dismissed by casual fans, but for those looking for a brutal companion piece to the film, Suspiria delivers ten-fold. It’s eerie, mood setting, and while it does have a handful of stellar Yorke tracks, the strongest part of Suspiria is how well it all blends together and shapes the world on the screen. Instead of throwing out B-sides, or driving sales with a radio-friendly rocker, Yorke has crafted a facsimile of the film in audio format, one that isn’t afraid to drone or even repulse. Such is the duty of the film, and therefore it requires the necessary score to go with it.

Overall Rating (1)

5 out of 5 stars
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