Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe
Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe Credit: Courtesy Backspin Promotions

Folklore can be the ultimate game of telephone. As a historical form of collective communication, it brings communities together while expressing what makes them unique, and the content of its stories changes as newer generations tell them from their own perspectives. Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe’s score for Nia DaCosta’s new film, Candyman, exemplifies how distortion—whether narrative or sonic—can express multitextual histories in succinct, powerful movements. For the original Candyman movie, director Bernard Rose transposed a Clive Barker short story set in neglected British council estates in the 1980s onto the Cabrini-Green high rises in 1992. Lowe addresses the legacy of the 1992 Candyman—on “Music Box,” he briefly reframes a placid piano melody from Philip Glass’s original score—but his compositions are largely distinct. As musician and curator DeForrest Brown Jr. detailed in an NPR piece on the new Candyman soundtrack (Waxwork/MGM), Lowe drew from his experiences observing the creation of DaCosta’s film, which expands the backstory of the titular specter in a way that further illuminates Chicago’s historical racial injustice. 

Lowe emerged from Chicago’s outre rock scene in the 1990s, playing in 90 Day Men, and later went solo as Lichens, making hypnotic, layered collages. He infuses his Candyman score with a reverence for the city’s history of experimental Black music, wielding modular synths, field recordings, and audio of the actors’ voices so similarly that it can be challenging to figure out where one element begins and another ends. The powerful but ambiguous results speak to the way Candyman continues to blur pop-culture storytelling with reality; after all, the 1992 film borrowed elements from Steve Bogira’s 1987 Reader exposé “They Came in Through the Bathroom Mirror.” Lowe subtly infuses these tantalizing and uneasy sound pieces with so much history that they effectively dare listeners to dig in deeper—even if the results shock them.

The Candyman soundtrack will be available on vinyl in January 2022 and can be pre-ordered now from Waxwork Records/MGM.