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Midsommar Bobby Krlic Main

Midsommar: Original Score Album Review

Written by Richie Corelli

Released by Milan Records

midsommar bobby krlic large

Composed by Bobby Krlic
2019, 41 minutes
Released on August 23rd, 2019

Review:

In 2013, producer Bobby Krlic, under his Haxan Cloak pseudonym, issued a masterwork of dark experimentation. A departure in sound from his previous album, Excavation is a complex and emotive recording built on deep frequencies of bass, where elastic electronics snap alongside slow pulls of rueful cello strings, where chopped vocals samples hiccup over thumps of unconventional rhythms, where crackling circuits bend and battle dizzy underwater synths. The music of Excavation envelops, builds, unfolds, and collapses with acute dexterity. The compositions are top-notch. The sound palette is pitch-black. Filmmaker Ari Aster played Excavation on loop as he as he worked on the script for his 2019 horror pic, Midsommar.

The movie is multilayered. It follows Dani Ardor, a woman who, after a family tragedy, joins her boyfriend and his friends as they attend a midsummer celebration in Hälsingland, Sweeden. It quickly becomes clear that the commune they’re visiting engages in some ritualistic traditions that could be dangerous to outsiders. Beyond the surface, deeper levels of the film look at mental illness and coping mechanisms. It touches on anti-anxiety medication, both physician and self-prescribed, and digs deep into the role of a therapeutic support system.

Aster shows his skills as a director as the narrative gymnastics of these layers intertwine. Dani faces challenges outside, in her physical world, and inside, in her psychological world. The tone of the film flips back and forth. It’s an atmospheric swing that is echoed by the movie’s soundtrack.

Aster was so enthralled by Krilic’s Excavation album that once Midsommar started its transition from paper to screen, he recruited Krlic to compose the movie’s score. Yet, despite this starting place, Midsommar doesn’t sound like Excavation. For Midsommar, Krlic created something new.

The first track is introductory. At thirty-two seconds, it’s a bright and brief flash of light. It’s followed by a distant scream. Krlic takes a snippet of the film, a heart-wrenching cry by actress Florence Pugh, and samples it into the soundtrack’s second song, “Gassed”. He keeps Pugh’s voice to the back, barely audible, allowing it just enough space to create a sense of torment. Strings come in almost immediately. They are stable at first, but then they soon start to quiver. Additional layers rise into the music. Then the drums; bellowing sounds, ominous and stressful.

This is followed by a moment of respite. The slow waves of tones that reverberate through the first two-thirds of the next track, “Hålsingland”, hum with an eerie peacefulness. They soothe the listener to relaxation before betraying that sense of tranquility with loud, violent stabs of harsh, screaming strings. It’s a blueprint of what is to come: The score for Midsommar, much like the film itself, is a series of highs and lows, a study of shifting moods where pleasantness can give way to anxiety without warning.

Krlic plays wonderfully to both. “The House that Hårga Built” glistens with sunlight. The track starts off on lower tones, but gradually moves upward. Strings saunter and shine while an elegant top melody eases in a sense of relaxation. “The Blessing” is a similar track. It glows warm with its soft undercurrent and smooth top strings.

Conversely, “Ritual In Transfigured Time” is hard and menacing. The chilly ambience at the front end of the track sinks to sub-zero temperatures as a series of shrill sounds layer atop one another and move toward a climax of dark uncertainty. “Hårga, Collapsing” is another bitter track. It jumps in with echoing screams and a dive-bombing pitch shift that feels uncomfortable and unsafe.

These songs, and others like them, alternate throughout the track list. Aster’s shots of picturesque landscapes are augmented by Krlic’s swirling strings. The scenes of intrigue are echoed by compelling instrumental builds. And the scares are backed by traditional horror music cues.

The visuals make their way to the album art too. Early in the movie, the camera pans across an image that had been painted by the community. It’s a not-so-subtle storyboard for the viewer, letting moviegoers know what to expect from the film. There is a crudeness to the art. It’s imperfect, weather-beaten. The cover illustration to the album mimics the paintings from the movie. But here, they are like a negative image, drained of color. White on black, with little greyscale, it shows women dancing around a maypole. A few scattered runic symbols embellish the border. The inner sleeve and inside gatefold take more images from the film and reproduce them as album art. The record itself is pressed on 180g black vinyl, which is housed in a gatefold jacket printed on reverse board. It further ties the film to the music. But the execution seems a little dull and uninspired. Music collectors who prefer their albums to be visually striking may be disappointed.

Listeners who aren’t concerned with design and just want to spin the record will have something else to consider: This music is so tied to the film that it is a different experience without it. As the movie plays, the score effortlessly steers through the story, massaging the listener to ease and then betraying that comfort. Without the movie, the sounds feel jarring. This is especially true when certain songs blast changes in volume. The work is unpredictable, unstable, and altogether unnerving. Some listeners will appreciate the suspense. Others may be scared away.

Grades:

Music: Threeandahalfstars Cover
Buy Amazon Us
Art: Twoandahalfstars
Packaging: Threestars
Overall: 3.5 Star Rating

About The Author
Richie Corelli
Staff Writer
Richie isn’t ignoring you. He just can’t hear you over the music. He’s been plugged in to his headphones for decades, diving into the zine culture of the 90s, blogging relentlessly through the 00s and beyond. He knows more about certain bands than he knows about himself. His love of music is rivaled only by his love of horror. If it’s creepy and spooky, he’s into it.

Horror DNA sutures his two passions together, giving him a platform to analyze and express his feelings on horror scores, soundtracks and live performances. It’s a celebration of all that goes bump in the night.
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