A Troubled Film Score from Fatima Al Qadiri to Keep You Awake at Night

by delarue

At a time of the year when many of us are dodging saccharine holiday sounds, Fatima Al Qadiri‘s surreal, troubled soundtrack to Senegalese director Mati Diop’s suspense film Atlantics – streaming at Spotify – makes a strong antidote. It’s not an easy listen but it’s a good, bracing one. Al Qadiri makes commanding use of low/high contrasts, uses the whole sonic picture and doesn’t waste a single note: this is one of the most strikingly minimalistic scores in recent months.

The composer astringently orchestrates the main theme and its first variation around a simple, four-note descending progression played on a kalimba. Samples of water filter through the mix early on; wave motion is a recurrent trope.

The music’s electroacoustic sensibility comes to the forefront through the twisted, tone-bending third segment. A nightmare appears in waves, between pregnant pauses; Sunset Fever, its first variation, gets a creepy, burnt-plastic lo-fi synth treatment. Is that a foghorn the second is meant to evoke?

From there, the sonics get icier and techier, then uneasily balmy: the stark starry tones of an old Omnichord synth come into play. When Al Qadiri brings the kalimba back, it’s against even grimmer, lusher lows, and the closing credits offer no hint of closure. Put this on late at night when you need to stay alert.