Toronto’s Clara Engel is a highly prolific musician, and her dark, dramatic music is a wonder to take in. For her latest project, however, she’s gone a little simpler—but no less haunting.
She provided the soundtrack for Aaron Mirkin’s spooky short film We Are Not Here, and I highly recommend checking out the film and then listening to this soundtrack again. The film isn’t an easy watch—three seemingly unrelated scenes linked together by narration about an upcoming road, a lake and a forest, but it couldn’t have had better music to go along with it than what Engel has put together.
The five compositions perfectly capture the feeling of creeping dread that encompasses the film. The first four tracks, all named after locations in the film (“The Lake,” “The Forest,” etc) are simple and spacious. No lyrics guide the listener to what the song’s intention is. Rather, each song has a mood. “The Road” has dark, repeating chords that will instantly accompany the beginning and ending sequences of the film.
“The Forest” is kind of the opposite, with many more notes strummed, almost bringing to mind the feeling of floating through space. Where “The Road” lets your mind wander, “The Forest” makes you feel like something is coming. “The Lake” has that same eerie feeling and same bright notes, while “The Shed” has a similar darkness as “The Road.”
All of that changes with “When the Spell Breaks.” Pretty much nothing can be heard for the first 30 seconds, and Engel breaks the spell with clear vocals, asking “When the spell breaks, where will I go?” The barest of instruments back her up as she narrates the listener through the gloom, until a momentous final line: “I’ll dress your wound with my life.”
The OST isn’t long by any means, but it wonderfully captures the uncanny space We Are Not Here created.
Top Track: “When the Spell Breaks”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)