Select Page

Sinister 7: Ariel Loh, Composer of “The Eyes of My Mother,” from Waxwork Records

Thursday, January 18, 2018 | Uncategorized

Music by Ariel Loh
Release Date: January 16, 2018
Label: Waxwork Records
One of 2016’s creepier thrillers (and Sundance breakout) was THE EYES OF MY MOTHER, the debut film from writer/director Nicolas Pesce (now at work on an adaptation of Ryû Murakami’s novel Piercing, already slated for Sundance 2018). This week, making its way onto a 180 gram double-LP from Waxwork, is the score from composer ARIEL LOH, with killer artwork from Nikita Kaun. 
Rue Morgue recently had the chance to catch up with Loh and talk about his methods for scoring madness during a Sinister Seven Q&A.
1. Writer/Director Nicolas Pesce decided to lens the film in black and white – did this have any effect on how you decided to compose the score, or what choices you made musically? Or did the score inform the direction of the film?
I understand that both score and script were developed in tandem. There was definitely some give and take. Nick started with a short film version of The Eyes Of My Mother, so I had already seen the visual aesthetic and style he was going for before starting to score. I think the main thing that influenced the other was the simplicity and pacing. I would rarely use more than a few instruments, and we never used any type of drums or percussion. Everything was purposefully kept open and bare. The instrumentation and mix is also kept really dark, generally speaking there is very little frequency/audio content over 5kHz, for the technical readers. Nick definitely had a hand in directing me and overall it was a very collaborative process finding the musical tone for the film.
2. You really like vintage, analog synthesizers. Which ones did you use for the score?
One of the main synths I used for the score is the Korg Lambda, which I primarily used for it’s string sounds. In addition to that, I used a Moog Prodigy for a lot of the bass sounds, and a Prophet 5 and Juno 60 for the rest. Most of the synths I had running through a Roland Chorus Echo which provides a really great, dark sense of space and depth.


“Everything was purposefully kept open and bare.”
Ariel Loh

3. How did you get into the head of the main character, Francisca, musically?
Nick and I had spent a lot of time talking about Francisca, through the making of the short film, and development of the feature script. A lot of the spiritual aspects and relationships of her character is loosely influenced from real life people we both knew as well. It’s interesting, I never really had focused intention on scoring for Francisca, most of the music that underscores her scenes are all pulled from the pieces I wrote before the film was shot, pieces that I wrote more influenced by the world the film exists in.
4. Horror often works well with almost minimalist music, such as short motifs or synth loops, which you use on this soundtrack. What is it about the use of recurring loops or phrases that meshes so well with the genre?
Loops always have this unsettling quality to it, but once your ear hears it, it latches onto it and kind of wants to keep hearing it. It’s kind of like not being able to look away from the screen knowing something terrible is about to happen. A lot of the “string loops” tracks (“Almost Dead” being one of them) were doing with a looper pedal in a single improvisational pass. It’s a very reactive way of writing that leads you to places that you wouldn’t normally think to go in, as the loops provide a groove and start to layer on top of each other.
5. Some of the tracks on Waxwork’s new release don’t appear in the film. Can you tell us when and why they were dropped?
A few of the tracks were written to replace licensed songs from some very talented artists that I’m honored to share the film with including The Acid and Leyland Kirby, and all of our music is there to support the Amalia Rodrigues tracks which I think really rings as the sound of Francisca. The songs never ended up getting swapped out since the film was able to secure all the needed licenses. A bunch of the other tracks were written for the film and just never made the cut, but Kevin from Waxwork Records really loved them all and we thought it would be cool to include all of the tracks as they embodied the world of The Eyes Of My Mother.
6. Disc 2 kicks off with an almost rockabilly pub rock song – who’s singing on it? How did it come about?
The Pub Rock song was one of the most fun tracks to record. Nick Pesce and I recorded it in our apartment when we lived together, that’s him singing on it. We needed a cue for the bar scene and Nick came to me with a Beasts of Bourbon song that gave us the direction for the track.
7. What projects are up next for you?
As far as films go, currently I’m working on a feature documentary called Bei Bei about a Chinese immigrant woman named Bei Bei living in Indiana who tried to commit suicide while pregnant and ended up facing Feticide charges. The film follows her story and legal case as well as the politics surrounding female body rights and personhood laws in 2011. It’s a very dark film in a different way than Eyes and working on a documentary coming from a horror film has been an exciting endeavor for me.
 My main work that I do is producing and recording artists and bands. I’ve been busy working with a handful of artists that I collaborate with including Yoke Lore, Cape Francis, (to name a few) and my own side project Drinker which fans of Eyes may enjoy.