Just like the film the soundtrack was written for, if you have any expectations for what Thom Yorke’s debut soundtrack work on Luca Guadagnino’s remake film Suspiria will sound like– get rid of them now.
Throughout 25 tracks, Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke takes viewers–and listeners–on a kaleidoscopic journey through music; not found here are the lilting tunes of Radiohead guitarist and frequent soundtrack composer Jonny Greenwood, and it is even difficult to compare the sometimes bizarre sounds to any Radiohead album. Found instead are experiments of droning electronic fuzz, death metal-like overtones, and even some twangy Americana. Suspiria goes from one emotion and then to the next, ranging from the dreary moods of 1970s Germany to the horror of witch covens, and then leaps to examine the devastation of losing a loved one and never managing to recover. Yorke manages to capture this journey perfectly. The opening track of the film, “Suspirium”, which was the first single released from the soundtrack album, glides past us, airy and light- “All is well/as long as we keep spinning,” Yorke’s deceptively smooth falsetto tells us, setting up the perfect uncertainty that is the basis of the film: constantly teetering on the edge of emotions, premonitions and warnings, not sure where the film is going, but anxious and excited to find out.
“Suspirium” keeps listeners in the comfort of the clouds for only a moment, however, before the story–and therefore the music–quickly changes themes. Yorke warns us not to get too comfortable: the piece of music the main dance of the film is performed with, “Volk”, creeps up slowly behind us, seeming to go up our necks slowly into our brains and live there forever.
While the major flaw of Guadagnino’s remake revolved around a lack of simplicity, Yorke makes up for it through his soundtrack. The five notes used in “Volk” are perfectly organized and raise just the right amount of terror without having to use any other keys, and the four chords used in “Unmade” do not appear complex on the surface, but like the film hide immaculately intricate progressions that mirror the climbing of stairs that lead into heaven, even when the scene on screen relays the exact opposite. In many ways, Suspiria revolves around the anxiousness of 1970s Berlin– that feeling that the past is coming back to us soon– beautifully transformed into the films finale song “Suspirium Finale”, a recalling of the track “Suspiria” that opened the film. This new, transformed take on the opening song is frazzled with the same notes, but off by a bit, and by the end of the last scene we are left to decipher what exactly within the song has changed, and what will change– referring to both the song and the film itself. Suspiria is in theaters now.