For Ari Aster’s latest cinematic outing Midsommar the scoring duties fell to Bobby Krlic aka The Haxan Cloak, who had some big shoes to fill following on from Colin Stetson’s sublime soundtrack to Aster’s first film Hereditary.
Did he succeed? Did he give the listening audience a score worth remembering? Oh yes. Yes indeed. This score stands proudly both within the film and as a music album worth owning in its own right. By turns lilting, ominous, uplifting and bone chilling, the 40 minutes of Midsommar‘s score are a musical journey worth taking.
The album opens with the uplifting strings of Track 1 – ‘Prophesy’ – and the scene is set. The score is light and airy, conjuring images of grassy meadows, blue skies with a smattering of white cloud, warm sunshine, children having a picnic and… is that someone crying? Moving smoothly into Track 2 – ‘Gassed’ – suddenly all pretence of this being a safe place is gone. A woman crying out, shrill, jittering strings, the tone mournful and oppressive. Picnic time is most definitely over, and in fact the rug is now splattered with blood and everyone has gone missing.
Track 3 – ‘Halsingland’ – continues the musical descent into darkness. A soft growling beat backed by a dull, menacing drone. There is no respite to be found here. Track 4 – ‘The House that Harga Built’ – and the tone is lighter and almost dreamlike. The strings return, more upbeat this time, more hopeful and wistful, backed by the plucking of the harp before fading off into nothingness. Track 5 – ”Attestupan’ – draws out that dreamlike feeling… to begin with. As the halfway point passes, the tone again subtly shifts, an unsettling undertone making itself felt, a hint of something not quite right, building as the moments pass before sliding into something horrific and then fading into nothing, merging smoothly into…
Track 6 – ‘Ritual in Transfigured Time’ – is a brief little track, in places reminiscent of the soundtrack to the game Homeworld. Thundering strings remind us that all the dreams in this place seem to twist quickly into nightmares. Track 7 – ‘Murder’ – and really for a track with such a stark title, it’s actually one of the more nondescript pieces on the album. A mix of slow, ponderous strings and drone – there’s nothing wrong with it, but nor is there anything in particular to recommend compared to the rest of the album.
Luckily Track 8 – ‘The Blessing’ – is a return to the more upbeat, airy theme of the album, strings mingling with wind in a gentle, uplifting melody before ending with the now familiar surge of the string section. Track 9 – ‘Chorus of Sirens’ – brings back the more unsettling overtones, including snippets of dialogue and sounds from the film suggesting that “For your vitality” is perhaps not as innocuous a phrase as a listener might initially think. Track 10 – ‘A Language of Sex’ – melds imperceptibly with the preceding track, and now that unsettling atmosphere is layered with voices, singing, screaming, pleading, rising to a chanting crescendo before suddenly tailing off with a surge of a sound that’s alien and disquieting.
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Track 11 – ‘Harga, Collapsing’ – continues these otherworldly tones, slowing, decomposing, sinking down into a slurry of jangling notes before rising again, frantic and desperate, a crash of strings, thundering and angry and then…. silence. Track 12 – ‘Fire Temple’ – is what could be considered the Midsommar Suite of this soundtrack. A beautiful mix of all the themes that have been presented up till now, wind and strings rising triumphantly, ethereal voices mingling before those minor key changes slip in, the hints that this beauty is hiding something altogether more disturbing.
While the whole score is a delight from start to end, the standout tracks are most definitely ‘Gassed’ and ‘Chorus of Sirens’. There is an almost dreamlike quality to it from start to end, the score almost entirely instrumental with voices only popping up here and there. For fans of ambient music, this is definitely worth collecting. For fans of the film – this is also definitely worth collecting, and is a worthy addition to any soundtrack fan’s library.
Midsommar – Original Score by Bobby Krlic is available on streaming or digital download, and will be released on CD on the 19th of July.