Broadcast – Berberian Sound Studio OST (2013)
The humble soundtrack: sometimes completely throwaway and not at all interesting but when used well, as integral as a character in the film.
I feel the music and film-making have a fair bit of overlap. In Jazz, the players intent is to take the listener on a journey, using harmonic tricks, a good musician can create tension and release, and even lead the listener’s ear along a path of their choosing, with the listener anticipating the forthcoming notes and either having those expectations fulfilled or denied, before leading to the tonic note. In my mind, the same is true of film. If done well, the director leads the viewer through the story and add tension and release to the story or the imagery, they toy with the viewer’s expectations before leading to the credits. The soundtrack is important in this respect and with good film making, an original score can do so much more than any popular music.
Whether or not soundtracks can stand on their own without their visual counterpart is another matter altogether. Some can and some can’t. Sometimes the narrative can be carried through the music and, after watching, can evoke the story.
But here’s the thing, I haven’t watched Berberian Sound Studio, so I am required to come at this album as a standalone piece. What I do know about the film is that it is a horror film set in a sound studio in 1970s Italy. Yes, I know what you are immediately thinking: Dario Argento and Goblin! I can’t help but feel that there is a great deal of homage here. One of the tracks is even called A Goblin (nudge nudge).
Musically, it is very simple; but, it is not what they are playing but how it is played. Broadcast utilise a number of devices to chill the listener. It is evident from the soundtrack that this is a thriller/horror; that is not to say that it is cliched, it certainly isn’t, but there are horror soundtrack elements here. Screams, ominous ethereal and big phasing synth (which actually reminds me of a film called Beyond the Black Rainbow, which I saw at the Leeds International Film Festival last year), nursery melodies, minor chords arpeggios slightly de-tuned instruments and overlayed organs resulting in constructive wave interference leading to piercing notes, all of which come together to send shivers down your spine. Counteracting that is a haunting allure and creeping mystery present across all the tracks, most of which are less than a minute long.
So, does it work on its own? Well, that all depends on you. If you come at this expecting tunes, then no, not at all, these are all short pieces, not fully formed songs; however, if you come at it expecting an aural experience, as you would with a modern composition or avant garde album, then I think you will find that it does work on its own.
Broadcast is a one-man British lo-fi indie project; after the death a couple of years ago of singer Trish Keenan along with the departure of other members, bassist James Cargill remains the sole member. As I understand it, the album was partially recorded prior to Keenan’s death. This album certainly doesn’t sound like the rest of Broadcast’s output and probably wouldn’t appeal to fans.
Favourite tracks: Mark of the Devil, A Goblin, Our Darkest Sabbath
Spotify link: Broadcast – Berberian Sound Studio