Thom Yorke, Suspiria
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Thom Yorke Suspiria XL Recordings


While Jonny Greenwood’s long-running collaboration with director and screenwriter Paul Thomas Anderson has seen the Radiohead guitarist make a name for himself in film composition, it is perhaps no surprise that Luca Guadagnino turned instead to Thom Yorke to score his 2018 remake of Dario Argento’s 1977 giallo horror classic Suspiria.

It’s difficult to imagine a voice more suited to the kind of unsettling ambience of the world of Suspiria than Yorke’s – his vocal style is nothing short of supernatural horror itself. Yorke’s falsetto, with its siren-like quality, feels conjured rather than affected, seemingly laden with torment from the process of being dragged from some unearthly depths.

Yorke’s composition, too, uses the not-quite-natural music of pick scrapes that imitate birdsong – which otherwise, taken alone, has only the sweetest connotations – to create a kind of preternatural echo chamber, placing sound at odds with itself, walking a fine line between earthly and spectral worlds. Or, perhaps more accurately, he scuffs at that line with his heels, proving the distinction flimsy from the beginning. In doing so, Yorke weaves together a Hitchcock-like feeling of creeping dread with a kind of overwhelming, synthesised euphoria.

There are also tinges of Yorke’s solo work and, perhaps inevitably, of Radiohead, particularly the minimalism and slow-burning build to madness of 2006’s The Eraser and the kind of dank, haunting reverberations of 1995’s The Bends. Alongside the original Suspiria soundtrack, Yorke also cites Vangelis’ work for Blade Runner as an influence on his first full-length score. While the instrumentation differs vastly from the Greek composer’s 1982 masterpiece, what the two scores share is a sense of stark beauty.

It’s in the way that standalone pieces like Yorke’s piano-led Unmade and Vangelis’ sax-adorned Love Theme paint a pitch-black sonic canvas only to illuminate it into a dizzying, celestial swirl. These are pieces of music at once as crushing as they are uplifting, perfect accompaniments to their cinematic partners but capable, too, of transcending them as works of art, becoming something else entirely.