The Babadook OST Album Review
Written by Richie Corelli
Released by Waxworks Records
Composed by Jed Kurzel
Released on December 8th, 2017
On May 7th, 2015, Waxworks Records posted a message to their Instagram promising a future release of the score from The Babadook. Commenters quickly praised the company and the soundtrack. But as time passed, the tone of the comments slowly began to shift.
Everyone started asking the same question …When?
The film, The Babadook, is the 2014 directorial debut from Australian filmmaker Jennifer Kent. It is a fairly typical monster movie on its surface. But it has metaphorical depth, using a child's boogeyman as a figurative symbol of a woman's struggle with PTSD. The film is supported by a suitably creepy score by blues-rocker-turned-soundtrack-composer Jed Kurzel. A home media movie release came soon after its theatrical run. A soundtrack did not.
On March 21st, 2017, Waxworks tweeted a teaser video of the packaging for The Babadook OST. They announced May 9th as a release date. The excitement from fans came back. Buyers set out to preorder the album, but no option was available. May 9th came and went. There was still no record to buy.
Another tweet came from Waxworks on December 6th, 2017. This time, the promised release date held true. The sale went live two days later. Two-and-half years after the initial announcement, Waxworks released The Babadook OST. It is a beautiful set; a fine soundtrack on an attractive slab of vinyl cased in a sleeve that movie fans would love.
It was worth the wait.
The music is cold and dour. Icy tones howl as they loop through echo and reverb. It's like a blistering wind rushing through a dark alley. The airy sounds blow quickly while the tempo pulls slow. This creates a disorienting effect, superbly supernatural.
In the movie, a young boy name Samuel is terrorized by a monster, Mister Babadook. When the first melody of the soundtrack taps in just before the three-and-a-half mark, during a track titled "The Babadook Theme", it does so with whimsy. A sound that resembles a xylophone skips above the already established chilly atmosphere. The toybox instrumentation over the cold ambience complements the film, supporting the child's innocence while underlining it with the creature's menace.
The second song with melody comes during a song called "Shopping Mall". This one is less playful. Instead of coming in at the top of the track, it floats up from the bottom. A would-be lullaby is fractured by reverb, making it more likely to induce a nightmare than a dream. Ghastly yowls swirl at the bottom of the track, a ghost under the bed.
Other moments come and go in similar fashion. Traditional song elements are bastardized, oil-stained with oozing swaths of horror. Melodies fade and reprise, separated by barren stretches of dark ambience. While the atmospheric movements may be a turnoff to listeners who prefer faster moving music, fans of drone will have much to enjoy.
The magnificence of this album is how expertly Kurzel stays to his themes. The record maintains a steady sound and mood by keeping to a limited timbre and tempo pallet. It does this without sounding stale or repetitive. Album length may have something to do with this. The record is under 30 minutes long. Listeners who prefer to drop the needle and zone out to the music may be disappointed when they have to get up and flip the disc before they reach the 15-minute mark. But a shorter album with no filler is arguably better than a long album that drags.
Beyond the music, the physical packaging is almost exactly what a Babadook fan could want. At the center of the movie is creepy children's storybook. Waxworks did their best to recreate this book and repurpose it as a vinyl casing. It's matte and heavyweight. The gatefold opens to reveal a pop-up Mister Babadook jumping out between lines from a page of the film's fictitious book. The left side starts, "If it's in a word, or it's in a look," and the right finishes, "you can't get rid of the Babadook." The packaging of this product is reason alone to buy it. The entire thing looks fantastic.
A note for collectors: the record sleeve comes in a clear protective plastic wrap. The back has a sticky strip and seals like an envelope. The strip may not line-up exactly on all copies, making for unsightly residue. Some buyers may decide to replace this wrap with a different one. Another item to consider is delicacy. The pop-up is a little more flimsy than is practical. The paper could bend if the gatefold isn't opened and closed with care. This is unavoidable. It's the nature of a pop-up book and the art is well worth the risk associated with it.
Inside the sleeve is a 12" x 12" illustration by Jessica Seamans. A stylized Mister Babadook creeps in the shadows of a house while a scared little boy tries to sleep. It's a little busy, visually, and it's more cartoony than the film, making Mister Babadook look more like a Batman comic villain than a creature feature, but it works in evoking dread. On the reverse side of this artwork are liner notes by composer Jed Kurzel. They bring the listener closer to the artist and, through that, the music itself.
The record itself is a 180 gram "Babadook" black and white swirl vinyl. As it spins, it looks effec-tively haunting. The sound is clean with little surface noise.
Occasional delays are inevitable. There is so much that goes into the release of an album. It's a complicated equation and if any one variable is out of place, the entire project can go down. It took a while for it to happen, but Waxworks kept at it. They never gave up on this release and they rewarded their fans who did the same.