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Eli Keszler
The Scary of Sixty-First OST Alex Deller , December 15th, 2021 09:11

Percussion virtuoso provides an unsettling score to a disturbing movie

Eli Keszler’s dizzying, intelligent work has often begged certain supernatural adjectives – ghostly, say – so having him tip deeper into the uncanny is as logical as it is rewarding. After contributing to Daniel Lopatin’s excellent Uncut Gems score, he now goes the soundtrack route alone. The Scary Of Sixty-First represents a cat’s cradle of threads spun from a career that encompasses work as a percussionist, sound artist, and composer.

The results are artful and cerebral whilst capable of delivering cruel, visceral jabs to the gut. It all plays impeccably well to a film loaded with jittery, galaxy-brained conspiracy theories, but also one whose overarching theme is lurid, discomfiting and culturally apposite: the descent into mania of two young women whose too-cheap-to-be-true Manhattan apartment was used as a base of operations by monied childfucker Jeffrey Epstein.

Dasha Nekrasova’s divisive film tips its grubby cap to Stanley Kubrick’s psychosexual swansong Eyes Wide Shut and – fittingly given the beyond-the-pale subject matter – the work of Roman Polanski. Keszler’s soundtrack suggests certain sonic throughlines to the work of those directors. Echoes of the strange, goetic incantations found within Jocelyn Pook’s score for Kubrick can be detected, and if there’s nothing quite so jaunty as Chico Hamilton’s Repulsion soundtrack you could certainly look to Philippe Sarde’s nape-prickling work for The Tenant instead.

While the record’s opening pulse might hint at vintage John Carpenter, it’s not long before the line is let out and Keszler begins to explore multiple layers of intrigue and tension. Clouds of glowering drone nestle neatly alongside wavering bells, unsettling scrapes, and mysterious private-dick-on-a-moonlit-mission melodies, deftly bringing together multiple inchoate elements to form something that’s skin-crawlingly paranoiac one moment and capable of mischievously warping horror soundtrack tropes the next.

As you might expect, Keszler’s virtuoso percussion frequently comes to the fore, though the Autechre-esque beats pitter-pattering their way through Stadium seem a long way from what we encounter here. Rather than playful, jazzy disintegration we’re subjected to nervy rattles akin to teeth being jounced in a tin, or, on ‘The Girl Knocks’, the sound of an increasingly confused revenant clattering its way through a bamboo forest.  

Like Labradford gone giallo or a Dario Argento film scored by Popol Vuh, it’s all seedy yet exceedingly arthouse – as though Keszler were cheerfully squandering an expensive education from a Very Good School by patronising dive bars, flophouses, and all-night screenings at the most disreputable, sticky-seated movie theatres imaginable. It’s a smart, absorbing, utterly compulsive listen, and yet another feather in Eli Keszler’s already-crowded cap. It’s also a stellar first release for Deeper Into Movies – a London-born film pop-up that prides itself on dredging up the kind of overlooked cinematic oddities that loftier institutions wouldn’t touch unless their hands were duck-taped into Ocado bags.