November 4, 2022 | CULTURE | By Jan Alfaro
In my Blood Orange review from second block, I mentioned Dev Hynes’ work for director Luca Guadagnino in the HBO original series “We Are Who We Are”. This week I’m drawing away from Hynes but sticking with Guadagnino as I dive into Thom Yorke’s “Suspiria”, an album for Guadagnino’s 2018 remake of the ‘77 cult-classic Italian film, “Suspiria”. It feels only fitting to finish this Halloween week with such a record.
To introduce Thom Yorke (because I’m silly and it took me a while to connect the dots), he is an English musician and is the main vocalist and songwriter of Radiohead. I listened to both separately and only about three months ago made the connection, so I’m outing myself but also hopefully helping at least one reader.
Yorke released his first solo album in ’06 but “Suspiria” was his first plunder into film scores. This came only one year after band member Jonny Greenwood, lead guitarist and keyboardist of Radiohead, wrote and composed the Oscar-nominated film score for “Phantom Thread”.
In comparison to Greenwood’s avant-garde orchestral score, Yorke creates a witching experience with interwoven haunting instrumentals and gorgeous songs.
The 80-minute album begins with “A Storm That Took Everything,” a track filled with distorted laughs and string instruments, then proceeds into “The Hooks,” an eerie orchestral piece with long, high-pitched violin sounds, repeating piano keys, soft grunts, and stabbing-like sounds. These two pieces are a perfect representation of the album as most of the 25 tracks consist of ghostly, uneasy instrumentals that complement Guadagnino’s film perfectly and serve as individual interludes if listening to the album independently.
Within these tracks, a couple of pieces exist as potential standalone singles.
“Suspirium,” the star of the album with nearly 42 million streams on Spotify, is the first track that lures in listeners as it’s a beautifully haunting piano ballad backed with Yorke’s noted falsetto. “Unmade” is a distant second, with 13 million streams, but my personal favorite is the base piano ballad laid with Yorke’s vocals in “Unmade”; the track feels melancholic with its additional trumpet and choral sounds that are possibly just some synthesizer tunes.
As a wise, random YouTube user commented under Yorke’s live performance of the tune from Electric Lady Studios – “That synthesizer thing in the background makes such a sad noise. It’s like the noise you get when you wake up feeling sad at 3 a.m. and open your bedroom window for some air and hear distant trains traveling by, distant cars. When everything is silent and you are just left with your thoughts.”
Between these two fragile ballads, there’s an array of pieces from “Has Ended”, which could fit into Radiohead’s “Kid A” with its mechanical beat and white noise layer, a choral piece, “Sabbath Incantation”, unnerving alien fillers such as “The Inevitable Pull”, and a very hypnotic and elegant “Olga’s Destruction – Volk Tapes”, with out-of-tune piano chords and static wave sounds that strangely fit perfectly together.
The tracks discussed so far only cover the first disc of 11 tracks but give a good feel for the entire project, so I’m going to leave it at that to not overwhelm you with more tracks that, as a collective, create an uneasy and dark yet enchanting album.
It’s to Yorke’s credit that the album is so evocative and has feelings of trepidation that he conjures even without Gaudagnino’s aesthetic visuals. Really, I can’t imagine the soundtrack being created by any other artist. With that said, Yorke’s contribution to the exhilarating remake of “Suspiria” shows his ability to pioneer sounds that continue to enchant and unsettle viewers and listeners.