Morbid as it sounds, posthumous is the only real way in which Berberian Sound Studio could have emerged. The score to the Italian horror film of the same name was released by Broadcast two years after the abrupt death of the band’s throaty lead singer, Trish Keenan. Her death spurred a cult appreciation for Broadcast, the English band with electronic sensibilities so fuzzed-out and melancholy that nothing even comes close to comparison.
Taken out of context from its intended visual accompaniment, listening to film scores on headphones is, for lack of a better phrase, an out of body experience. In any case, Berberian Sound Studio succeeds its cinematic intent without the listener even having to turn their eyes onto a screen. The score transcends far beyond the auditory and into something purely evocative. But the real question is: is that feeling closer to wonder or fear?
Berberian Sound Studio suggests that those dual sentiments of fear and wonder are entwined, especially with thematic overtones of a dementia that creeps at the helm of religious comfort. “Catalina is Coming” could easily be a psalm meant for the altar, closely following titles that allude to falls, funerals and death. The thirty-second “Mark of the Devil” warps itself out of hell and into the ear, leaving the listener unsure if what they’ve just heard is an auditory hallucination or a passing visit from Lucifer himself. “The Fifth Claw” terrifies with choral vocals omnisciently behind sounds of choking and blubbering half-Italian.
The wonder of Berberian Sound Studio are the quiet moments that fold themselves somewhere in between. Demented lullaby “Beautiful Hair” segways into an incantation, both amplifying tension and simultaneously comforting amidst the inevitable doom to come, mirroring the same arc of a film.
“Teresa, Lark of Ascension” is the one song that could stand alone on a studio album, all evocative bells, synths disguised as church organs and Keenan’s wordless croons lurking just below the surface, circling slowly and demonic. Marked with woe from beginning to end, Berberian Sound Studio is closer to antichrist than Hallelujah, but Broadcast reminds you that divinity is intrinsic with death.
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