Thom Yorke, Suspiria album review: Radiohead frontman's first ever soundtrack summons the darkness of horror

'Suspiria' is not all creepy instrumentals – a handful of tracks stand out among Yorke’s best solo work

Elisa Bray
Thursday 25 October 2018 15:04
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Trailer for Suspiria from Amazon Studios

At the Venice Film Festival, Thom Yorke likened composing the score for Luca Guadagnino’s remake of 1977 horror film Suspiria to “making spells”. Certainly, Yorke’s first ever soundtrack summons the darkness of horror, and the terror of blood and evil, over 25 tracks.

This, the masterful conjuror does through unnerving cinematic ambience – pitch-bending violins (“The Universe is Indifferent”), the threatening hum of deep synths interrupted by bursts of soul-juddering sound (“The Inevitable Pull”), and the tension of melodies unresolved. Angular piano motifs return throughout, drawing the listener back into a familiar sense of dread.

But Suspiria is not all creepy instrumentals. A handful of tracks stand out, and are among Yorke’s best solo work. The Radiohead frontman’s debut piece written for the 007 film Spectre was a sparse piano-led ballad, and “Suspirium”, the first single to be released from this soundtrack, takes that same intimate approach to desolate depths. Understated, with piano melodies flowing alongside a mellow flute and Yorke’s fragile falsetto, it’s the saddest waltz you’ll ever hear. It’s also the most intoxicating. We return to the melody, enriched with strings, in “Suspirium Finale”.

Another vocal-led highlight, “Unmade” juxtaposes dissonant synths with straight-up piano and ghostly choral voices provided by The London Contemporary Choir, giving an eerie edge to its dreaminess.

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“Has Ended”, on which Yorke’s drummer son Noah plays the languid breakbeat, melds 1960s psych-rock with the hypnotic drive of Krautrock. It’s not just the vocals – echoing layers upon layers – that are laden with effects, but also a piano sample, in turn creating a sitar-like drone. Like much of this soundtrack, it puts you under a trance-like spell.

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