Broadcast composes chilling soundtrack after tragic loss
A HAUNT THAT STAYS WITH LISTENERS
Published: Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 01:01
Glass-shattering screams, menacing footsteps, and the sounds of gore and violence coat the soundtrack of Berberian Sound Studio like a fine layer of grime.
The venerable psychedelic electro duo Broadcast was tapped to provide the soundtrack to this independent horror flick about a sound designer losing his grip on reality.
Released in the UK last August, Berberian Sound Studio follows the ignoble story of Gilderoy—played by uber-nebbish Toby Jones of Captain America—who arrives at a dingy sound studio in Italy to put his foley skills—creating sounds for film—to work on an unspeakably grisly horror flick, The Equestrian Vortex.
In the style of Italian giallo masters Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento and splatter fests like Suspiria and Killer Nun, The Equestrian Vortex is a unrelentingly grim and pulpy canvas for Gilderoy to work his aural magic, providing the sounds for slashing, mutilation and rape, among other atrocities.
In an intriguing twist, the film itself is never shown; the viewer experiences these horrors only with Gilderoy’s ears, a helpless passenger on his road to madness.
Broadcast was originally asked to contribute the music for the film within the film, but ended up contributing songs that dribble in and out through the whole picture. The Berberian Sound Studio OST is 39 fragmented tracks, alternating atmosphere and dread with subtle melodies. Taking inspiration from classic giallo soundtracks like Goblin’s Suspiria, Broadcast’s album traces the outlines of the film, painting its broad strokes in shades of dire gray.
For those who have listened to Broadcast’s last two albums, 2005’s Tender Buttons and 2009’s Broadcast And The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults Of The Radio Age, the choice to score a horror flick may seem strange. The group’s work has more in common with the avant-garde psychedelic rock of the late 60s and fuzzy synth jockeys like Black Moth Super Rainbow.
But listen closely and one can detect the traces of the occult, the air of menace. James Cargill, one half of Broadcast, described the latter album to The Wire Magazine as a “horror dream collage where Broadcast play the role of the guest band at the mansion drug party by night.” Recurring notes and motifs, one of the band’s favorite devices, also float through Berberian Sound Studio like relentless specters.
Two years before the soundtrack’s release, Broadcast vocalist Trish Keenan contracted pneumonia in a hospital and passed away at the age of 42, leaving Cargill to put together the fragments of Berberian Sound Studio without his life partner and trusted collaborator. Making an already distressing and lonesome album even more so, Keenan’s voice moodily drifts over just a handful of tracks, a far cry from the soulful and serene vocals of Tender Buttons.
Despite the unmistakable scent of devastation on the album, Cargill is not content to leave Berberian Sound Studio as Broadcast’s epitaph; he’s digging through Keenan’s old recordings to fashion Broadcast’s next album. “Trish left a lot of tapes, four-tracks and stuff, and I’ve been going through those,” Cargill told Under The Radar Magazine last year. “It’s difficult, and I’m connected to it at the same time. It’s wonderful, but I’m also feeling a sense of loss.”