Singer, producer, frontman of Radiohead Thom Yorke, exhibits his known vocal beauty while also revealing extraordinary compositional production on Suspiria (Music for the Luca Guadagnino Film).
Radiohead’s talent is difficult to analyze, mostly because it all comes in the same package. Even though Philip Selway doesn’t sing, does he ever add anything to Yorke’s lyrics? Because Yorke is always the one singing, does he help with any production work? What does Ed O’Brien do? Unless there are solo works by members of the band, any sense of individual talent in the band could go unrecognized. The Beatles are a pretty obvious example of this; only after they split up was it proven that George was a way better songwriter than Paul (it’s true and you know it). Jonny Greenwood, an accomplished composer and orchestral writer, has scored every Paul Thomas Anderson movie since There Will Be Blood, and was recently given an Oscar nomination for his score of Phantom Thread. Now, Yorke’s decided to showcase his own style in the direction of a horror classic for the upcoming reboot of Suspiria.
As a listening experience, Suspiria is best with big noise-cancelling headphones and all the lights off. It’s supposed to be for scary movies, which it easily accomplishes; Yorke understands the power of ambience and noise to illicit pressure and fear. But what really makes this record stand out from a standard score is its diversity in texture. “A Choir of One”, a 14-minute experience, is in the same album as the one-minute “The Inevitable Pull”, a dense synthetic track that sounds like something bad is happening in the basement and you know somebody’s gotta investigate it. Tracks like these two compose the soundtrack-like-elements of the double-album, and while they are enjoyable in their own right, what keeps me coming back are the Thom-like-elements that feature Yorke’s vocals. “Suspirium”, one of the lead singles to the album, is a piano ballad that has Yorke floating with that golden falsetto of his over the instrumentation. Suspiria, a movie about a dance academy being run by a witches coven, finds its place in Yorke’s lyricism, as he says on the track, “This is a waltz, thinking about our bodies, and what they mean, for our salvation.” Moments like these are similar to Radiohead’s most recent album, A Moon Shaped Pool, although without any drums, guitars or heavy electronics behind him, Yorke’s vocals remain isolated, exposed for everybody to be confused about the true meaning of them.
Until the newest version of Suspiria hits theaters or streaming services, the greatest effect of Yorke’s effort is impossible to analyze. But, as a standalone ambient double-album, Thom Yorke has shown his beautiful artistry beyond just his gorgeous voice. Layered synths, experimental ten-plus-minute tracks, and spotlight appearances of Yorke lyrically create a fully realized world of tension and elegance that seems to make up Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria.
Article written by Jackson Rhodes ’21