An intriguing experiment in gothic cinema scores...
'The Tenant'

Roman Polanski’s eerily mundane psychological horror is underlined by its restrained score from Phillippe Sarde. The music is tense but minimal; it does a good job of subtly building up the tension in Polanksi’s already unnerving picture, but it’s one of the great composer’s lesser-known soundtracks for a reason - it’s not particularly memorable.

Death and Vanilla have composed a rather more luxuriant alternative. Performed and recorded at the Spanish Cinemascore festival back in 2015, the rich sonic palette here is familiar from the band’s two excellent albums: all vibraphone, keys and gently plucked guitar. Marleen Nilsson’s wistful vocals, however, are sadly absent.

Still, this remains an ominous and beautiful companion to the band’s 2013 soundtrack to Carl Dreyer’s Vampyr. Where that record sprawled over 80 minutes, 'The Tenant' is half the length and closer in tone to the band’s “proper” albums. It’s haunted and troubled - a hallucinatory reflection of protagonist Trelkovsky’s rapidly deteriorating mental state.

The band swerve from Sarde's template by immediately adding more colour and movement to their interpretation. The percussive ‘Do You Have Any Trouble With Your Neighbours’ has a distinct spy movie flavour, while ‘Dioz Delerium’ is more overtly supernatural. In places it’s strikingly lovely, with ‘Free Design Kung-Fu’ a delicately blooming piece on vibe, guitar and synth - the influence of various strains of library music on the band is more apparent than ever here.

If it’s, perhaps, a little too florid and gothic to truly fit with Polanski’s austere mid-70s urban imagery, then it’s still a very fine Death and Vanilla record.


Words: Will Salmon

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