It took director Luca Guadagnino over a year of pursuit to persuade the Radiohead front man to take up the challenge of writing the soundtrack to his remake of the 1977 horror film. His bandmate Johnny Greenwood earned an Oscar nomination last year for his work on Phantom Threads and it was clear that Thom was worth the wooing as he has repeated the accolade with the title track Suspirium (meaning “Sighs”) being nominated for the Best Original Song.
Now I am no fan of horror movies, and haven’t been since I scared myself witless watching Salem’s Lot as a teenager. With my favourite TV detective, David Soul (Hutch) in the film, I didn’t think it could be THAT BAD, foolish girl… So whilst there was a lot of clever stuff matching musical pieces to scenes in the creation of the film, it’s all lost on me as I am just viewing this as a stand-alone album. So it is a massive credit to Thom that this works as such. Unsurprisingly, the whole feel of the album is pretty sinister and I find The Hooks really quite disturbing with its groans and noises. Like a wimp, I often skip that one.
The album is mainly piano led with a few “proper songs” such as “Suspirium”, a gorgeous waltz with Thom Yorke’s falsetto in full employment, the exceptional and incredibly beautiful “Unmade” and Has Ended, which is the one that could pass as a Radiohead song. And in between there are all sorts of musical interludes and pieces using orchestra, choir and the instruments of tension and unease. “Volk” is a particular favourite, as it has some sort of disturbing voodoo steel drum thing going on which gives way to some skittering drums (played by Thom’s son Noah). This leads onto “The Universe is indifferent” a shimmering Middle Eastern infused track that is the warmth against much of the cold on the album. One oddity for me is “The Choir Of One” which is nigh on 15 minutes of sound – the musical equivalent of a black line on a white canvas in a modern art gallery – a bit perplexing.
With 25 songs and 1 hour 20 minutes on the clock, it could be unlistenable as a long player with only one emotional thread running through it, but it is a credit to Yorke’s genius that it works as a stand alone album.