Without actually seeing the visuals, reviewing a soundtrack to a film is made somewhat of an uneasy task, you feel like the context is missing or you have not been presented with all of the relevant information. High Life was written and directed by Claire Denis and stars Robert Pattinson and Juliette Binoche in the lead roles. It explore a group of criminals who are tricked into believing they will be freed if they participate in a mission to travel on a spaceship towards a black hole to find an alternate energy source while being sexually experimented on by the scientists on board. Stuart A. Staples of tindersticks has composed and arranged the music for this score, which is entirely instrumental aside from the one track that Robert Pattinson sings.

High Life is the eighth Claire Denis film they have provided a soundtrack for, by either tindersticks or Staples. However, High Life is the pinnacle, being the most ambitious score they have composed to date. The OST focuses on the hypnotic nature of the characters’ existence within their surroundings and the relationships that exist within the film , both violent and tender.
As a multi-instrumentalist, we hear many different sounds from Staples but most have an underscoring hum, like the sound of an engine, which often performs the role of a looming sense of dread, as well as honing in on the hypnotic elements of life for the characters. The notion of the black hole has certainly been influential with this soundtrack as the drones and hums become more overpowering as the album progresses. Particularly notable on The Fuck Box.

A culmination of discordant sounds, drones and hums, aside from Willow there is very little harmony or melody throughout this album, with the track Rape of Boyse, actually being a fusion of brass, percussion and feminine screams. It’s no easy compilation of sounds to get your head around, and with most film soundtracks is better with the accompanying visuals. The technical components of this record, however, sound up to scratch and cinematic certainly, creating the atmosphere suggested of a film I’m not sure I’d want to see. But I can presume it’s discerning and fit for purpose.

High Life OST is out now, via City Slang Records.