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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.