Review Summary: A haunting, at times beautiful double album that finds Thom Yorke widening his songwriting horizons.
While surprising news at first, the idea of the frontman for Radiohead scoring the arthouse horror remake Suspiria makes sense. His atmospheric solo releases explore cold, mysterious places and contain abstract lyrics open to interpretation. Suspiria
fits with The Eraser
and Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes
by having memorable melodic phrases in abstract, electronic music styles. The sprawling double album mainly dives into more adventurous and diverse territory however, showing that like band mate Jonny Greenwood, Yorke is adept at trying new things in service of an effective film score.
Thom Yorke dodged the director of Suspiria, Luca Guadagnino, for months as he made consistent requests for him to take on the project. Guadagnino knew Yorke had it in him to write for Suspiria, as he captures the hypnotic, engrossing qualities of the original soundtrack by Goblin and makes them his own. The Suspiria remake is wholly different from the original, vaguely resembling the plot but essentially a completely different movie, ambitiously exploring themes like coping with life after war, conformity, corruption of those in power, self-actualization, feminism, and the occult. This allowed for Yorke to also go in an ambitious direction with the score, including a choir, an orchestra, flute, a modular synthesizer, and a guest appearance by his son on drums for the …Boxes
-esque “Has Ended.”
Yorke’s approach occasionally recalls classic soundtracks, early electronic music, and psych and progressive rock from the original’s time, being influenced by artists like Vangelis, Can, Faust, and Ennio Morricone. However, he primarily focuses on exploring a wide variety of styles beyond the 1970s Suspiria
. There are approximately six tracks that could be considered “songs” in the tradition of Yorke’s solo career and Radiohead, being the album highlights: piano-centric “Suspirium / Suspirium Finale,” “Has Ended,” “Open Again,” “Unmade,” “The Universe is Indifferent,” and the ethereal “Klemperor Walks.” The rest are a variety of eerie ambient soundscapes and noisy interludes best appreciated in the film.
Yorke’s style fits Suspiria well, scoring the surreal dream sequences and effortlessly invoking an ominous tone for the slow-burning, suspenseful scenes. The ritualistic climax of the film can’t be imagined having the same memorability or emotional impact without the finest song, piano ballad “Unmade,” playing as the visually striking events unfold. The marriage of the visuals and the music effectively provoke reactions of horror, confusion, awe, and many other emotions as the film progresses. What’s most impressive is how naturally the score unexpectedly veers from haunting to beautiful in rewarding ways. Despite avoiding it for a period of time, Yorke came through with his best solo album yet. He assuredly created a multi-layered horror soundtrack that serves as an engrossing confection of new musical landscapes in its own right while being essential to the film’s effect.