Thom Yorke’s latest solo venture is something of a hybrid album. Ostensibly the soundtrack to Luca Guadagnino’s forthcoming remake of the 1977 horror classic Suspiria, this new collection also serves up some pointed commentary about our fraught political times. Put together like this, the two sides of the music’s personality create an enveloping atmosphere of dread and despair, and, surprisingly, some stray sense of hope.
The latter is brought to light in the dreamy ‘Has Ended.’ Over a sinuous drum beat (played by Yorke’s son Noah) and some eerily melting drones, the Radiohead emerges from the murk to imagine the moment when “the ego it had ended, the loud mouth was gone.” It’s up to the listener to determine which “dancing puppet king” Yorke is referring to in this gorgeous tune.
Beyond those flickers of light, Suspiria serves to unnerve anyone who lays earbuds upon it. Lest anyone miss the point, Yorke names another vocal track ‘The Universe Is Indifferent,’ using the small waves of a string section and a freeform acoustic guitar racket as a backdrop for his scattered images (“I walk in the willows...to walk in sorrow and shame, a knife is buried”).
Suspiria may not boast the same symphonic breadth of the soundtrack work composed by Yorke’s bandmate Jonny Greenwood, but, as you would suspect from the two creative forces behind Radiohead, they share an ability to leave an indelible impression, even without the accompanying visuals. The final two tracks of this double album ‘Voiceless Terror’ and ‘Epilogue’ are the stuff of nightmares are tied together, building and receding with frightening beauty. The piercing strings that start this small suite find a negative photo reflection in the low bass tones that close the album. Much earlier in the album’s running order, ‘The Hooks’ lays a gentle piano melody over a synth and string section duet and small samples of muffled cries, clacking footsteps and wet thuds from the film. A riveting first soundtrack from Yorke.
Thom Yorke - Suspiria (Music for the Luca Guadagnino film) is out 26 October via XL Recordings.