Seth A. Smith’s soundtrack for his horror film, The Crescent, is an atmospheric piece of minimalist new wave. Like the movie itself, the score eschews sudden stingers and loud crashes designed to frighten the listener. Instead, the music aims for an unsettling wobbliness. Notes are bent, then cut short. Vibrato is exaggerated. There is either too much or not enough sustain. Something about the whole thing just doesn’t feel right. The listeners’ footing is never sure, and that’s what makes it so effective.
The main theme appears three times on the album, a simple haunting melody anchored by a single flat electronic kick drum. Meanwhile, synthesizers swirl around, human voices sampled and held, distorted until they almost sound like screaming goats. The layers build, the tension grows, all fed by a consistent sense of incompletion. Phrases end before the listener’s brain expects them to, and the innate desire to hear the proper end of things is never satisfied.
Other tracks toy with our idea of traditional scary movie music. “Lost” brings to mind church organ music, a soft cacophony, strange worship for unnameable gods. “They Are All Waiting For You” begins with warning klaxons before descending into a whirlpool of nothingness. Then, right in the middle of things, there is a straight-up pop song. “May I Enter Your Heart” is the cheeriest thing on the soundtrack, calling to mind early tracks from The Cure and Altered Images. It doesn’t feel out of place, though, and the tune serves as a welcome break from the intensity of the rest of the album.
Composer Smith also directed The Crescent, an unnerving film to watch. The score works well within the context of the movie, serving to enhance the film’s overall creepiness instead of overpowering the visuals with bombast. But one need not see the film to enjoy this soundtrack. It is a mood unto itself, the keeper of themes for meditating on loss and instability, a masterwork of eeriness.
Seth A. Smith’s soundtrack for The Crescent is available from Label Obscura as a limited pressing of 300 copies on marbled vinyl with artwork by Yorodeo.