Radiohead’s Thom Yorke Performs Songs from His New Soundtrack for the Horror Film, Suspiria

It’s a strange time to remake a Dario Argen­to movie. The mas­ter of gial­lo (Ital­ian for “yel­low”), the crime, thriller, and hor­ror genre films that flour­ished in the 60s and 70s, took par­tic­u­lar plea­sure in tor­tur­ing his female char­ac­ters, often in scenes involv­ing rape and star­ring his top­less daugh­ter. Luca Guadagnino’s 2018 Sus­piria “opens its eyes in a world where female pow­er has nev­er been stronger or more under attack,” writes Wired’s Angela Water­cut­ter, who advis­es those who haven’t seen the orig­i­nal to save it until they’ve watched the mod­ern homage.

Aim­ing to “de-vic­tim­ize” Argento’s women, the remake takes the orig­i­nal sto­ry of a coven of witch­es oper­at­ing a dance stu­dio in Berlin but empha­sizes its char­ac­ters as fig­ures of mys­te­ri­ous pow­er who are both “fear and revered.” Where Argen­to goes for the max­i­mal amount of luridness—in blaz­ing reds and yel­lows echoed in the first scenes in a neon McDonald’s sign—Guadagnino’s approach “is more mut­ed in both palat­te and tone, opt­ing for insid­i­ous weird­ness over shock and gore,” as David Roony writes at The Hol­ly­wood Reporter.

Con­tribut­ing heav­i­ly to the shift in tone is a score from Radiohead’s Thom Yorke that could “hard­ly be more dis­sim­i­lar to the cacoph­o­nous prog-rock of Gob­lin that was such an essen­tial part of the original’s sen­so­ry assault.” To call the first Sus­piria and its glo­ri­ous score an “assault” is not at all pejo­ra­tive, but a pure­ly accu­rate descrip­tion of their style. But Guadagni­no wise­ly sensed that the grim beau­ty of Yorke’s song­writ­ing would best speak to a con­tem­po­rary ver­sion, so he hound­ed the Radio­head singer until he agreed.

Though he’d nev­er scored a film before, and was inti­mat­ed by the chal­lenge, Yorke found his way in through the script. “There was this melan­choly which I was real­ly sur­prised about. Not like a nor­mal hor­ror film at all,” he says in the BBC inter­view at the top with Mary Anne Hobbs. He calls the film’s mood “a weird form of dark­ness,” which could equal­ly describe the evo­ca­tions of dread under­ly­ing all of his work. The process of scor­ing Sus­piria, he says, was “free­ing… because there’s no sense of my iden­ti­ty on it at all…. I’m who­ev­er he want­ed me to be at the moment, for what­ev­er par­tic­u­lar sec­tion of the film.”

These live per­for­mances for the BBC, espe­cial­ly “Sus­pir­i­um” fur­ther up, might seem to belie that assess­ment. The songs draw deeply from Yorke’s famil­iar well of spare, atmos­pher­ic angst, which is all to the good. They also see him mov­ing in unex­pect­ed direc­tions. “Open Again” builds on a gen­tly fin­ger-picked acoustic gui­tar fig­ure, and “Unmade,” above, almost chan­nels Burt Bacharach’s mood­i­er film pieces, with its lounge‑y piano and yearn­ing vocal melody.

The score became a fam­i­ly project; Yorke’s son played drums on some of the tracks and his daugh­ter helped design the art­work. On a BBC Radio 6 appear­ance, Yorke also played an hour-long mix of his favorite atmos­pher­ic records and debuted a pre­vi­ous­ly unre­leased track called “Sus­piria Solo Glass Har­mon­i­ca.” Lis­ten here and see the new Sus­piria trail­er below.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The 10 Most Depress­ing Radio­head Songs Accord­ing to Data Sci­ence: Hear the Songs That Ranked High­est in a Researcher’s “Gloom Index”

The Secret Rhythm Behind Radiohead’s “Video­tape” Now Final­ly Revealed

Thom Yorke’s Iso­lat­ed Vocal Track on Radiohead’s 1992 Clas­sic, ‘Creep’

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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