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Anyone who has seen the original Suspiria may have been haunted by Goblin’s core theme, built from seemingly playful music box-like atmospheres. Nothing on Thom Yorke’s soundtrack is as childish, cartoonish, and instantly memorable. But that’s not a knock. In a film that often revels in the gracefulness of ballet movements, Yorke’s central and repeated refrain—heard most prominently on the piano cut “Suspirium”—functions as a gorgeous circular waltz. “All is well as long as we keep spinning,” Yorke sings, his voice near a falsetto but clear. It serves as one of the few moments of the soundtrack that transcend the medium: “Suspirium” represents a compact ode to the allure of dance.
Do not settle in.
Even as “Belongings Thrown in a River” begins with a twinkling of notes, its walls of piercing noise will probably test the most devoted of listeners. Similarly, with its synthesizers and a diverging religious hum, “A Choir of One” comes on as a work tailor-made for a horror film. Yet the ambitious, minimalistic sonic collage also proves rightfully nightmare-inducing, given its nearly 15-minute length. And while short bursts of atonal ambience—a shuffling of feet, a demonic tick-tock—likewise pair with images on a screen, there’s little reason to revisit the reverberations on record.
Above all, one is left curious about how such ambiguous elements could someday influence a proper Yorke or Radiohead song. Perhaps the film’s “Unmade” provides an answer. Here, Yorke uses his voice as an instrument, practically matching the pitch of drones in the background, while a roomy piano seems to slow down and create more space as the song unfolds.
Housed in a gatefold jacket with lyrics and demented scrawls, Suspiria sounds immaculate on pink vinyl. Considering much of the 80-minute work relies on silence and quiet noses, it remains unsettling at how clean and airy everything feels. As one piano lullaby ends, a harsh mix of digital sonics began. They slice the warmth with the precision and fierceness of a meat slicer. As Yorke brings in electronic fuzz or woodsy ticks, it all feels uncomfortable—like an imaginary insect crawling over one’s body.
As ideal as the mix may be—the orchestral moments seem preserved in ember—it is difficult to recommend Suspiria as a vinyl purchase for anyone other than Yorke diehards. Not because it lacks ambition or weirdness that demands closer examination, but because most Yorke and Radiohead fans will likely be content downloading the few song-like tracks here. “Suspirium” and “Unmade” absolutely deserve such a home.
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