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Song You Need to Know: Thom Yorke, ‘Suspirium’

First taste of the Radiohead singer’s horror-flick score is a chilly, gorgeous treat

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If you’re a filmmaker who’s just talked a member of Radiohead into scoring your next movie, go ahead and celebrate. If it’s Jonny Greenwood, you’re in for a major avant-garde monument (There Will Be Blood) and/or a delightful set piece (Phantom Thread). (There’s also a good chance you’re Paul Thomas Anderson. Nice!) If it’s drummer Phil Selway, that’s cool, too. But you’ve really hit the jackpot if it’s Thom Yorke. That means you’re getting actual songs, starring one of the most evocative voices in rock. Yorke sounds so good in movies that directors regularly use him to suggest tragic romance (“Exit Music” in Romeo + Juliet), psychedelic paranoia (“Everything in Its Right Place” in Vanilla Sky) or sublimated crush vibes (“Fake Plastic Trees” in Clueless) — not to mention the spectacular Spectre theme that James Bond’s producers bizarrely rejected in their worst call since the Seventies. Sure, the rest of Radiohead deserve much of the credit for those big-screen moments. But Yorke’s voice is what makes each one iconic, instantly setting a mood and raising the stakes.

All of which means that Luca Guadagnino is a very lucky guy. Last year, Yorke signed on to score the Call Me By Your Name director’s remake of the Seventies horror flick Suspiria. The original, directed by Dario Argento, featured a bugged-out prog score by Goblin, the King Crimson of Italy. “It’s completely bonkers,” Yorke told Rolling Stone‘s Andy Greene, noting that following Goblin was “fucking hard work.” Here’s our first taste of how bonkers he’s willing to get. With its repeating piano figure and air of soft regret, “Suspirium” sounds at first like a more developed version of a classic Radiohead B-side like “How I Made My Millions” or “Fog (Again).” Then the flutes come in, and you hear how the orchestral filigrees of 2016’s A Moon Shaped Pool have stayed on his mind. On his past solo records, The Eraser and the underrated Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, he’s kept things claustrophobic, like he was singing from a digital bunker. The full-bodied arrangement of “Suspirium” feels like a breath of cold night air by contrast. “All is well, as long as we keep spinning,” he promises, or warns. It’s peak Yorke, and scary good.

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