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Thom Yorke is at his most unsettling and haunting with ‘Suspiria’

| Friday, November 16, 2018

Diane Park | The Observer

In Luca Guadagnino’s remake of the 1977 film “Suspiria,” a ballet studio falls into disarray as a result of supernatural forces lurking underneath its glassy surface. The movie itself is characterized by muted tones and sets that pay homage to modern architects like Adolf Loos. A soundtrack as wintry and haunting as Thom Yorke’s matches the tone set with the muted color grading and deliberately modernist, cold settings. To some degree, this is a departure from what Yorke has done in the past. On this soundtrack, mechanical and robotic noise is somewhat replaced with choral arrangements and other musical oddities that distinguish this album from the rest of Yorke’s work, both solo and band-related.

When I initially heard this soundtrack, the first line of comparison I drew was to the soundtrack of Kubrick’s “The Shining.” The movies are similar in mood, with both having the aforementioned muted and sparse setting. Both are wintry and cold to a degree, with “The Shining” taking place on the Overwatch Hotel grounds and “Suspiria” taking place in a modernist ballet studio. Without spoiling too much of either movie, both also follow the psychological decline of main characters as a result of the settings in which they are placed. The soundtracks rightfully mirror each other in their use of abstract sounds and musical styles to create tension in the same way that the movies create tension on screen.

Although many of the tracks on this album are strictly cinematic in nature, there are a few cuts from the project that would fit right in on a Radiohead album from recent years. The tracks “Suspirium,” “Unmade,” “Has Ended” and “Suspirium Finale” all feature Thom Yorke’s characteristic falsetto backed by piano arrangements similar to those found on tracks from the Radiohead album “A Moon Shaped Pool,” such as “Daydream.”

As great as the score is, it is a true score. Much of the album’s 80-minute run time is spent exploring noise in a cinematic sense as opposed to songwriting in a melodic sense. This is good only to a degree, as it becomes hard to find much from this album that will have any type of replay value outside of the four Radiohead-esque songs mentioned above. Then again, a soundtrack should not be examined in a vacuum, without the context of the movie it accompanies. The film’s premise can be surmised as a ballet studio gone wrong with an added supernatural element. There are moments of beauty in this premise, mainly with the ballet studio and its connotations. This can be associated with the falsetto and beauty of the more traditional Radiohead songs. However, the dark lurking underneath the superficial beauty can be associated with the more abstract musical moments in this project. In that sense, Yorke succeeds in scoring the soundtrack of the movie “Suspiria” in a way only Thom Yorke could.

Artist: Thom Yorke

Album: “Suspiria (Music for the Luca Guadagnino Film)”

Label: XL Recordings

Favorite Tracks: “Suspirium,” “Unmade,” “Has Ended,” “Suspirium Finale”

If you like: Radiohead, Bjork, James Blake

Shamrocks: 4 out of 5

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