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Pearl Will Charm You

Director Ti West (The Sacrament; The Innskeepers) turns now to an origin story for a primary character in this year’s X. Pearl presents the backstory of the poor farm girl trapped dealing with a devout mother and sick father with her eyes set on the sort of glamor-filled life she sees in the movies. The film appeared at this year’s Venice and Toronto Film Festivals and soon after hit theaters in mid-September. Tyler Bates and Chelsea Wolfe turned out decidedly creepy score with interesting sexualized vocalizations blended into the fabric of the music. Now Bates’ team includes Timothy Williams (Diablo; Red Sky) whose presence has also tilted the score into a richer orchestral work.

The opening “Main Titles” are achingly beautiful with melodic gestures that feel almost like we are back in a classic Hitchcock thriller. That Herrmann-esque style is also on display as we head into “One Day” as well. There are some occasional hints at the darkness, but often the music will swirl into a brief frenzy, with a stinger feel. The score has an almost Vertigo-like quality in the swaths of string sound used here that sometimes beguilingly shift into a romantic gesture. Dissonant harmonies flirt inside those moments as well to create an interesting, unsettled atmosphere. The light moments have a light, almost comedic touch in moments like “Dancing With Scarecrows” that becomes a charming waltz. While these tonal segments pull in the listener with their pleasantness, it does not take much for them to become dark, intense builds of almost noir-ish intensity. “Papa” begins to bring some of that madness more to the fore which explodes brilliantly in “The Whole World’s Is Gonna Know My Name”. From there, the dark struggle seems to have blossomed as strings skitter about adding tension as little swells feel like suppressed emotions that will soon explode outward again (“What About Your Dog”). “Hot House Rag” is a track that disarms with its charming hints at period style (sort of like a Disney-esque Randy Newman style) that provide a brief reprieve before the hopes are smashed again. Even as that gorgeous main theme brings us to the concluding “I’m So Happy You’re Home”, the track ends with a hint of the nervous energy as it fades away.

Bates and Wolfe’s score for X was already on this reviewer’s short list for best of the year in horror scores, but Pearl may just have supplanted that with its well-orchestrated colors and shifts from beauty to growing madness and back again.There is a grand Hollywood era sheen to the score that no doubt reflects the hopes and dreams of the film’s protagonist.The score has parts Sarde, parts Herrmann, and part Iglesias (from his Almodovar dramas where Herrmann’s ghost is very present) all in one entrancing and excellent score.Pearl may be one of the top 10 scores of the year whose music makes for a great listen on its own. The score is a available from A24 music on streaming services.


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