Thom Yorke Suspiria Review For Northern Transmissions

XL Records

9.0 /10

Thom Yorke '

Suspiria

Tackling a cult film like Suspiria is hard enough, but Thom Yorke himself has to live up to Goblin’s equally iconic soundtrack (among their other works). By mixing elements of rock, score and ambient music, Yorke avoids trying to the old music and creates something profound about Suspiria in a new way. Though it remains to be seen how well it will fit the film itself and retain as an iconic piece in its own right, this is a piece worthy of the legacy of Suspiria.

There’s a menacing crawl that sets of the record on “A Storm That Took Everything” but its best quality is its underlying sense of paranoia baked into the background effects. Even the subtle groans within the “The Hooks” play to this feeling, as the more overt melodies and grooves seep in to peak powerfully. It’s more unnerving how well many of the direct sound clips from the film work in a musical context as well, though it can feel a little distracting in the context of a song on its own. Like Goblin before him, Yorke’s true test comes in the more pop-rock tracks like “Suspirium” where balances stirring riffs with his devastating vocals. In this, he still manages to sink in enough interesting orchestral moments to make the track versatile as well.

One powerful moment comes on “Belongings Thrown in a River” which falls between John Carpenter and Goblin alike into something sinister and distinctly frightening. The slow-burn of “Has Ended” makes for a fun listen that will easily fit the context of the film, though it does tend to become a literally lyrically on-the-nose for the film’s subject matter. More than Yorke’s pop numbers however it’s these smaller and more focused instrumentals like “Klemperer Walks” and “The Inevitable Pull” that really pull you in and send your imagination running, most notably in the weird way these tracks are mixed more ominously than others.

Then again the more experimental nature of songs like “Olga’s Destruction” or “Open Again” work equally well, as they take more recognizable writing and twist it until it’s strange again and memorable in new ways. Other more choral tracks like “Sabbath Incantation” and “The Conjuring of ANke” feel more tied to the film itself, where only sparing melodic themes connect it to the rest of the score. “Unmade” however ties many of these sounds together into a strong Yorke pop track that is devastating and heavy to listen to. Though it’s unclear how it could avoid being distracting within Suspiria itself, Luca Guadagnino has proven unusually talented at fitting more lyrically-driven songs within his scenes.

Out of the tense build-up “The Jumps,” “Volk” starts bouncing off with weird string and electronic rounds that find the album descending into madness in a way before it transforms itself again. Using the right push of Goblin-like rock direction and more inherent score roots, this track is horrific and fun all in one. “The Universe Is Indifferent” almost seems to be pulling the original score out at times, as it feels like a hideous melange of a Yorke song, score and something else. This however plays out more stirring than other tracks, as a sense of confusion overrides in the most appropriate way possible.

Following the tense moments of “The Balance Of Things” and “A Soft Hand Across Your Face” you can start to feel a rhythm as the album continuously shifts between moody instrumentals and pop peaks. In this way “Suspirium Finale” feels much more satisfying than it did the first time, as it serves a stronger thematic purpose later on. It can also be said pretty easily that “A Choir of One” is one of the most scary and experimental things Yorke has down in some time, as its mix of lingering vocals and unclear noise leaves you worried and disoriented.

The final section of ambient and score-focused tracks turn into an experience of their own, as we see the synthesizer taking centre-stage as an embodiment of the film’s central evil. Through these final more explorative tracks, there’s something horrific and powerful you can feel in it, and it discomforts you in the way a horror movie (like Suspiria) really should, but without any visuals.

Words by Owen Maxwell