Yorke experiments on soundtrack for ballet horror film Suspiria

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For more than two decades, Thom Yorke, Radiohead frontman, has captivated listeners by introducing them to new sounds that are sometimes polarizing. As a result of the constant experimentation found on Radiohead and solo albums, it’s no surprise that he’s managed to stay relevant for such a long time.

As an artist, Yorke is no stranger to change. Now, on his first-ever soundtrack — for the film Suspiria a remake of the 1977 horror film of the same name — Yorke treats fans to a double album filled with ambient music and politically charged lyrics.

Creating a soundtrack for a movie may seem like a simple task for someone like Yorke. His bandmate, Jonny Greenwood, has found major success in producing soundtracks for Paul Thomas Anderson films such as There Will Be Blood, with an Oscar nomination for Phantom Thread. When it comes to Suspiria, the original film’s soundtrack was composed by progressive rock band, Goblin, to wide acclaim. Yorke had big shoes to fill.

It’s extremely easy to see that most of the songs on Yorke’s soundtrack to the 2018 film will become fan favorites. The ballad “Unmade” contains some of Yorke’s best singing ever put to record, and even instrumental pieces such as “Volk” have unique song structures that keeps the listener engaged. The strange noises on “The Universe is Indifferent” are made up of intricate parts, examples of what is found throughout the entire album. Every track has something unique to offer, and for an album that runs for over an hour and 20 minutes, that’s a good thing.

This soundtrack is not for the faint of heart. The album constantly challenges listeners with non-linear song structure and ambient noises that one might find on a Brian Eno record. Noises are thrown left and right due to the scenes they are accompanying.

There are times in which certain tracks may drag on for long, such as the 14-minute “A Choir of One,” but listeners who dedicate time to the soundtrack will find the many surprises it has to offer hidden away in each piece.

Though there are many purely orchestral pieces, the tracks that offer lyrics don’t disappoint in terms of content. However, these songs do fall short in comparison to other lyrical efforts made by Yorke on previous albums. On “Has Ended” and “Unmade,” Yorke sings about change, but is extremely vague and lacks substance. In a way, it may be too much to expect from a soundtrack for a horror film about ballet.

Although the soundtrack has the common characteristics of Yorke’s musicianship, such as the melancholic vocal delivery, politically charged lyrics and hints of soft piano, listeners will be pleasantly surprised to find new approaches in Suspiria’s music. The use of a choir found in “Sabbath Incantation” and “The Conjuring of Anke” gives an insidious atmosphere to the soft and subtle pieces, while guitar is used effectively in “Open Again” in giving the song a dreamy quality.

One of the best things to take away from the album is how much Yorke reinvents himself. This soundtrack sounds nothing like an alternative rock album from Radiohead or an electronica album, as one might expect from the artist. Taking inspiration from previous soundtracks for movies such as Blade Runner, Yorke is able to create a world that compliments the movie he is scoring. The scary and creepy nature of the music is fitting for Suspiria’s horror. Not only that, but this entire soundtrack will most definitely stand out in Yorke’s solo discography.

Under the direction of Luca Guadagnino, it’s no surprise that this soundtrack is such a departure for the musician. Change is not uncommon for Yorke fans, who are always excited to see what he might do next.

One can only hope that Yorke continues to surprise listeners left and right. The lyrics found on this album, leaving little to be desired, possibly foreshadow what’s in store for fans in the future, as Yorke plans to release a solo project in 2019.

It’s unclear whether Yorke will continue his stripped back and spacious approach to music, as found on the Suspiria soundtrack. But one thing is for certain; he is not going anywhere anytime soon.