PrintE-mail Written by Nick Spacek

Frank Ilfman's score for the the Swedish haunted house film, Sensoria, follows in a long line of haunting scores. The sense of something like The Omen or Rosemary's Baby is there, in terms of an omnipresent sense of dread, but in terms of sonic dynamics, Ilfman moves the haunted house score into a more modern sensibility by adding in aspects of electronic percussion and synthetic, sustained droning tones.

Now, this isn't to say that this is all electronic or monochromatic. Given the prevalent use of music box and a chord progression which is reminiscent of Gustav Hinrichs' Phantom of the Opera theme, Ilfman is definitely using classic tropes. However, it's the way in which he utilizes them that allows the music of Sensoria to ultimately feel so fresh.

The rather traditional title theme features a moaning, wordless female vocal over the aforementioned music box, paired with this strange 19th-century instrument called a dulcitone to create a feeling of dreamy disorientation. Even with all those traditional elements, there's still an undercurrent of electronic machination, wherein Ilfman uses these very deep bass touches ever-so-sparingly to lend a depth of evil to the proceedings, but in a way so as to not take the listener out of the experience as a whole by distracting them.

As the score progresses, the interweaving of all these aspects become more pronounced. Watching You becomes more electronic, but the piano is also rather dominant. Calling the Ghost is all dissonance and unease, and the rumbling underneath will rattle your floorboards. However, trapped between the string and electronic sensory intensity of Another World and Image in the Mirror comes the rather traditional The Trail of Blood, which wouldn't have been out of place in a Hammer film. It's such a delight to hear how well the old-school and new-school methods take their places and work together, the score slips right by, and one's almost upset when it's done.

Ilfman's work on Sensoria is at turns discomforting and mesmerizing, but it always has an edge of beauty and wonder to it. Given that this is for a film miles away from his most famous work - Big Bad Wolves - it's heartening to hear how well the composer can acquit himself in any situation. Given the rather rampant downbeat tone of that score – a necessary reflection of the film – it was wonderful to hear the scary, but not terrifying, music for Sensoria.



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