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Thom Yorke : Suspiria (Music For The Luca Guadagnino Film)

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Suspiria (XL Recordings)

Dario Argento’s legendary supernatural masterpiece Suspiria was not only a stunning slice of atmospheric horror, it also boasted one of the great scores of 20th century cinema by Italian band Goblin (or the “Goblins” as they were credited on the film).

Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria remake starring Dakota Johnson and Tilda Swinton is about to hit British cinemas next month, having recently premiered here at the BFI London Film Festival to reviews that generally agree the new film fails to match the breathtaking brilliance of its original.

Composed by Thom Yorke, the accompanying soundtrack – his debut feature length score – comes out today on XL. According to the singer, the music this time round takes its main influence not from Goblin’s disturbing but dazzling OST but from Vangelis’ work on Blade Runner. This is maybe most evident in the cold synth riff that opens Volk, and micro-short tracks like A Soft Hand Across Your Face, Synthesizer Speaks, The Universe is Indifferent and Suspirium Finale pt 2.

This, though, is a diverse listen. One minute you might think of a György Ligeti choir; the next some musique concrète experiment. The Balance of Things possesses a distinct eastern feel while Klemperer Walks momentarily made me think of the Wendy Carlos.

More often, a number of the tracks bring to mind kosmiche acts from the mid 1970s. The original movie was released in 1977 and this new ‘cover version’ as Swinton refers to it as, is set in that same year, a time when German electronic act Tangerine Dream scored William Friedkin’s Sorcerer, Klaus Schulze provided the music for Lasse Braun’s Body Talk and Popol Vuh released their ninth album, the OST for Werner Herzog’s Heart of Glass. It’s easy to imagine Yorke listening to albums like these as he commenced work on this project.

Suspirium itself, the first taster from the album, is one of the highlights here. A sparse song with elegiac piano melody, pastoral flute and the most plaintive vocals you’ll hear in 2018, this is vintage Yorke. Has Ended features a crisp drum tattoo (played by Yorke’s son Noah) and dreamy psychedelic drones; A Choir of One has a sinister feel, the prelude, I would guess, to some nerve shredding action. The piano on Unmade wouldn’t sound out of place on some middle of the road track and gives listeners some light relief during what is a sometimes unsettling listen.

Notably Yorke’s bandmate companion Jonny Greenwood has received much acclaim for his own contributions to the art of scoring in recent years although the Academy have so far failed to award him an Oscar. I haven’t yet seen the new Suspiria, so it’s impossible for me to say how effective this music will work in tangent with the visual flair of Guadagnino but I would guess Yorke’s work here would have to be seriously considered – along with Greenwood’s fine job on Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here.

I can judge this, though, as a standalone (double) album. There are many fascinating instrumental fragments that might be described as incidental music rather than as fully fledged songs. Not that this means I don’t admire them hugely anyway.

Best of all are the tracks where Yorke supplies that famous fragile falsetto of his on such as Has Ended and Open Again. Suspirium Finale is a take on Suspirium with strings supplied by The London Contemporary Orchestra, who also contributed to Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool. It’s as good as anything on that 2016 album.

Other pieces such as Sabbath Incantation obviously have a definite purpose in accompanying some specific narrative event on-screen, and these prove less successful as music you’ll want to listen to on any kind of regular basis. For the sake of album cohesiveness, Yorke might have been wise to drop some of these moments. Most fans will likely want to programme their own version.

Uneven but mostly engrossing.

8/10

To stream or buy the album click here.

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Suspiria 2018

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Suspiria_2018

The upcoming remake of Suspiria isn’t something that I’ve been getting too excited over.

If you read my previous post you’ll know I’m a Dario Argento fan and like most fans, I tend to balk at the idea of remakes of films that I’ve cherished for years – I first saw Suspiria during a short run in Glasgow at the tail end of 1977. Although my memory might be faulty here I think I can just about remember it being part of a X certificate double bill with Black Christmas. Oh and me still underage! Those were the days, my friends.

Despite my completely predictable reservations about the reboot, I was curious enough to have a gander at the trailer when it was released earlier tonight.
Surprisingly enough, it does look promising enough. If I hadn’t known it was for the remake of Argento’s supernatural horror classic, it might even have sold me on the film. And I can confidently predict that, if nothing else, the ballet this time round will be more authentic.

Notably, it looks as if Guadagnino has completely ditched the neon primary colours of Argento’s original – which is very possibly the reddest movie ever made – and doesn’t seem to be following the original script too closely either. Indeed, Guadagnino has voiced his opinion that while his movie is ‘inspired by the same story… it goes in different directions, it explores other reasons.’

Trailers, of course, aren’t the most reliable indication of whether a film will be any good or not. At this stage pedigree is more important.

Directed by recent Oscar nominee Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name), the remake stars Dakota Johnson (Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash) and Chloë Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass) together with frequent Guadagnino collaborator Tilda Swinton. Jessica Harper, the star of the original, also appears in a new and much smaller role. Thom Yorke is providing the score.

So, a very decent pedigree. Well, if we ignore the fact that Johnson also starred in that 50 Shades nonsense.

Okay, here I have to admit that despite the talent involved, there’s next to no chance that this film will match the magic of Argento’s masterpiece.

Hopefully, though, a decent percentage of younger cinema-goers who have never seen the original will be persuaded to seek it out.

Currently in post-production, Suspiria should make it to British cinemas around November of this year.

Simonetti-Morante-Pignatelli: Tenebrae (Soundtrack Sundays #4)

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Tenebrae (1982): Directed by Dario Argento

Tenebrae Sleeve

Newly released on Waxwork Records is the complete soundtrack to Argento’s giallo masterpiece Tenebrae together with a number of related bonus tracks.

This is one of those very special vinyl releases that have obviously been put together with a whole lot of loving care. Befitting for a hyper-stylised movie where even the murders somehow look almost artistic.

The design here really is superb and includes a die-cut style gatefold sleeve, with disc 1 being coloured ‘Blood Red’ while the second disc is in ‘Straight Razor Silver’. Oh, to die for!

Tenenbrae_Inner_Sleeve_Art_by_Nikita_Kaun

There’s also the inner gatefold sleeve above, illustrated by Nikita Kaun. The woman depicted is Jane McKerrow, played by Veronica Lario, the former wife of Silvio Berlusconi. You can say what you like about the man’s politics (and I’m certainly not a fan) but you really can’t argue with his taste in women.

It’s been said that when the couple married in 1990, the Italian mega-mogul wasn’t pleased with his missis being in such a controversial movie and attempted to use his power to suppress it.

Veronica_Lario_-_Tenebrae

He wasn’t alone in trying to make it impossible to see. In Britain it even made the infamous Video Nasties list, a daft idea supported by Mary Whitehouse and her moral majority cronies together with The Daily Mail and Rupert Murdoch papers. A Private Member’s Bill was introduced by Tory MP Graham Bright in 1983 and a year later the Video Recordings Act 1984 was passed by parliament.

Sadly, a victory for censorship and I remain in the camp that says if you want to ban anything why not make a start on the religious texts that encourage extreme violence? This attitude being pretty common at the time of the whole video nasties furore. Not that anyone believed this would ever happen.

Had a single MP watched Tenebrae? I doubt it. Did anybody murder anyone as a result of seeing it? I’ll hazard another guess here – NO.

The bill did at least give rise to some comic moments.

Bible thumping Manchester Chief Constable James Anderton’s officers immediately increased the number of raids on local video stores, at one point seizing a copy of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, a musical comedy starring Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds, thinking – possibly hoping or even praying – it was a potentially prosecutable porno.

Of course, many a filmmaker actively sought a ban, using the subsequent publicity to gain media publicity in other countries. The distributors of one infamous Italian cannibal flick even complained anonymously to Mary Whitehouse about their own film.

Cannibal Holocaust really didn’t need any additional attempts to hype up it’s notoriety. In Italy, its director Ruggero Deodato found himself arrested on obscenity charges and accused of making a snuff film due to an idiotic idea that some actors might have been killed onscreen. Which, of course, proved groundless. The whole incident could even be seen as more disturbing than his movie, which to be fair, was pretty out there. And which remained banned in Italy.

The clip of Tenebrae below – like much of the film – is also admittedly gruesome. If you don’t want to see any gore then cheerio, cheerio, cheerio but you’ll be missing out on one of the most inspired ever uses of the vocoder, grandiose drums, magnificently supple 1980s bass, as well as some scintillating baroque disco touches – the band had certainly departed radically from their prog origins by this point.

You’ll also miss out on some virtuoso directing from Argento in the form of a very long and continually fluid tracking shot that begins from below a woman gazing out through a window before creeping up and across the building where she lives, giving an eerie indication of an unseen presence that we can only assume has murder on his (or her) mind. Well, it is a Dario Argento film after all.

This scene also amuses me because what everyone initially assumes to be part of the score turns out to be a character playing Tenebrae on her record player. On black vinyl in case you’re wondering.

Goblin, incidentally, had split soon after working on Dawn of the Dead, with Claudio Simonetti going on to create some of the best Italo disco records of the era in a number of guises such as Easy Going and Capricorn.

Argento was desperate for them to reform in order to supply the music for Tenebrae. Three of the four agreed to the idea, so although often attributed to Goblin, for contractual reasons, at the point when they recorded the music they were instructed not to refer to themselves as Goblin, so chose to string together their three surnames, hence the rather pedestrian sounding Simonetti-Morante-Pignatelli album credit although on Tenebrae – or Tenebre as it is sometimes known, or even Unsane as it was titled on its initial American release – the music is listed as Simonetti-Pignatelli-Morante. Got that?

Anyway, here they are playing Tenebrae in Oran Mor in Glasgow, a slightly different line-up to the Goblin I’d seen in 2011 at The Arches, their first ever show in Scotland and a highlight of that year’s Glasgow Film Festival. If you want to see a couple of tracks from that evening, you’ll have to buy a copy of Arrow’s dual format edition of the film released in 2013. I’d recommend you do so and make sure you hear the audio commentary from Kim Newman and The Sex Pistols’ old pal Alan Jones.

The band will be in Edinburgh in August for the Fringe Festival. They’ll be performing their their classic Suspiria score live to a screening of Argento’s legendary supernatural horror and, to celebrate its 40th anniversary, they’ll also be performing to George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.

Suspiria: 5 Aug, Summerhall, 5.30pm
Dawn of the Dead: 5 Aug, Summerhall, 8.20pm
Dawn of the Dead, 6 Aug, Summerhall, 5.30pm
Suspiria: 6 Aug, Edinburgh, Summerhall, 8.50pm

For more information: www.summerhall.co.uk

For more on the release: https://waxworkrecords.com/products/tenebrae