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Berberian Sound Studio


Jan 07, 2013 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

For a band known for their unique catalog of psych-pop, composing the soundtrack to a film like Berberian Sound Studio had to be seen as a plum job. Broadcast’s Trish Keenan and James Cargill worked together on the project prior to Keenan’s tragic passing in January of 2011.

The deterioration of a British sound recordist’s mental state is at the center of Berberian Sound Studio, writer/director Peter Strickland’s homage to 1970s Italian horror. Set in 1976 Italy, the main character is employed to provide the sounds for The Equestrian Vortex, a low-budget horror movie. This involves the creation and recording of terrified screams as well as the sounds of limbs being severed and humans having hot pokers introduced to their bodies.

The 39 tracks here are short pieces, with only two extending beyond two minutes. Cargill’s interspersion of snippets of sound and dialogue from the film adds considerably to the overall experience, providing chilling and entertaining context along the way (you could comfortably wager that things don’t go well for the heroine in “The Serpent’s Semen”). Broadcast’s contribution was originally planned as a soundtrack to the film-within-a-film, The Equestrian Vortex, but as the project evolved their recordings came to be used throughout the feature.

Vocals are occasionally included, as with the wordless “Teresa, Lark of Ascension” and the foreboding “They’re Here, They’re Under Us,” but the bulk of the soundtrack comprises electronic instrumentals. Moods veer from the sinister electronic throb of “Mark of the Devil” to the nearly funereal melancholy keyboard sketched for “Confession Modulation” and a sweet (though darkening) calm coloring “Collatina is Coming.”

Imagine being tasked with providing music to a short scene entitled “Found Scalded, Found Drowned.” Broadcast succeeds brilliantly: if one can listen to the soundtrack to this moment with no visuals and still come away disturbed, then Strickland found the right folks for the job. (

Author rating: 7/10

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