July 2nd, 2014 , by John Beeler
It’s been thirteen years since Asthmatic Kitty Records released Sufjan Stevens’ Enjoy Your Rabbit, but we’d never pressed it to vinyl — until this year. Now that it’s available in limited edition, colored vinyl, we thought we’d celebrate by asking director and animator Geoffrey Hoskinson to create a video. We let him choose the song and the concept for the video. What he created is mesmerizing and beautiful.
We asked Geoff a few questions over email about the video.
What appealed to you about the song “Year of the Tiger?”
“Year of the Tiger” is a really outstanding track on the record. I love how it is like a soft ballad juxtaposed with noisy glitchy interruptions and a big climax. It is these dynamics that really appeal to me.
Could you talk a bit about how you made this video? It’s so vibrant and alive. What tools did you use?
The video was created with Photoshop and After Effects. I designed all of the pieces in Photoshop and then animated them in After Effects.
There’s some really interesting visuals here; obviously the tiger is important, but you even have tiger sperm swimming through to a sun-egg. Your work tends to address some life/death issues. Could you speak to that?
What mainly drove the visuals for the video was the concept of birth. This was inspired by the notion of the birth cycles of the Chinese zodiac and the (then) impending birth of my son. The vocal parts in “Year of the Tiger” sounded to me like a wordless lullaby for a baby. So in the video, I saw the tigers as spiritual beings who were calling a new soul into existence with their song.
You can buy Enjoy Your Rabbit here, or at your local record store.
May 23rd, 2014 , by John Beeler
The new Half-Handed Cloud full-length, Flying Scroll Flight Control, is dropping next month, and the fanfare heralding its arrival is already underway.
In especially good news for fans of cryptic symbolism as well as complex, outsider-esque sacred pop, the official celebration begins on June 1 at 1, when Half-Handed Cloud’s afternoon release show begins at Ohmega Salvage. Not just a venue, Ohmega is also a working antique salvage yard in Berkeley, CA where beautiful old things that have been rediscovered amongst the detritus of the modern world can reclaimed and restored. Those Lavender Whales of Columbia, SC will be opening for a three-person Half-Handed Cloud lineup on the Ohmega stage.
But first, PopMatters is offering a quick preview of the album this week, praising the “sun-kissed melodies” and “quirky instrumentation” of the new track “Festus, I Am Not Out of My Mind” and making it available to stream in full at PopMatters.com.
And Half-Handed Cloud mastermind John Ringhofer has posted his own, high-concept teaser for Flying Scroll Flight Control. A short video conceived and sound-designed by Ringhofer himself, and relying heavily on an important contribution from one Dr. Ralph Kuri, this preview, like the album, is made up of equal parts ingenuity, metaphysics, magic, absurdity, and wit, and features just a few seconds of music from the new album’s “Titus Three.”
Out June 10 on Asthmatic Kitty Records, Flying Scroll Flight Control is already available for preorder on CD, mp3, clear vinyl, and a special LP release with custom slipmat.
May 19th, 2014 , by John Beeler
Fol Chen‘s new video for “Boy in the Woods” captures the flight of a kidnapped anthropogenic rabbit rescued by a host of forest friends. After his escape, he must flee through the woods to escape prowling lions–who actually turn out to be rabbits themselves? It makes sense once you watch.
Nancy Jean Tucker directed and animated of this venture into The False Alarms, which is available now. Says The Line Best Fit, who premiered the video: “Everything is meticulous, deliberately ingenious. It all flows excellently; there’s no disjointed genre-hopping here.”
Check it out over at The Line Best Fit here.
May 9th, 2014 , by John Beeler
Debuting exclusively on Jamaicans Music, Rafter’s new video for “Convertible Jeep” will cause your brain to melt into a pool of reggae-ified gel. The good kind (of brain gel).
Directed by Lizeth Santos, the video features Rafter in an amazing Reggae Robot suit, an army of extras donned with gold future-microphones wearing multi-colored body suits, and pretty much every color possible.
Watch it on Jamaicans Music here, or below.
The album is available now. Allmusic reviewed it, saying “Everyone from Lee Perry to King Tubby, and even more modern producers like Steely & Clevie, would be impressed by the sounds [Rafter] conjures up on the record.” Buy it here.
February 17th, 2014 , by John Beeler
“Rhythm of Devotion” is out on Soundcloud. A lyrics video for “Alcohol,” another new single, is up for listening on Soundcloud.
Sisyphus will be on on March 19th, 2014.
August 3rd, 2013 , by John Beeler
In March, Fol Chen released their third LP, The False Alarms—pure pop on the surface, witty and appealing, but all the more satisfying for the dark and uncanny sensibility lurking just beneath. Now, Keith Musil has released a video, accompanying the album’s title track, that acutely captures the wry and ambiguous tone of Fol Chen’s eerie pop project.
Almost like a horror movie, Musil’s “The False Alarms” starts out at a spooky teenaged slumber party, but when a game of “Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board” takes an unexpected turn, it’s not quite clear whether the audience should be frightened or elated. When the main character, played by Fol Chen vocalist Sinosa, rises from the floor, has she become liberated from gravity, or trapped in the air? Is she suspended by dark forces beyond her control, or is she levitating under her own power? The video, and Sinosa’s unsettingly serene performance, refuse to give us any simple answers.
June 19th, 2013 , by John Beeler
Chris Schlarb wanted his new video, “Seventh House,” to be more than a commercial for the record.
“The idea of making a video for promotional purposes only doesn’t hold any interest for me,” Schlarb says. Instead, he enlisted director Sahale Jensen to create a short film that would expand on the themes of the song and of the intricately constructed full-length album, Psychic Temple II.
In keeping with his role firmly at the helm of the Psychic Temple project, Schlarb was closely involved with the conception of the video, starting with the choice of Jensen for the director’s chair. “I came across a video that Sahale did for Aaron Roche and was intrigued by her work. We kept in touch over the years,” says Schlarb, “and she was the first person I thought of for this project.”
What followed was an involved discussion of the song and its lyrical imagery, over a series of lengthy telephone conversations. “We met and collaborated virtually,” says Jensen, “but never have actually met in person!”
The video takes the mystical and astrological imagery of the song and makes them unsettlingly literal. “Pisces in the Seventh House,” chants the song’s eerie vocal, and the Seventh House becomes a seemingly ordinary suburban home. The duality represented by the Pisces, explains Jensen, becomes the main character and a sinister doppelgänger, both played by first-time film actress Annea Umayam.
“We shot north of Seattle in a small town called Sedro-Wolley,” Jensen says, “at my grandparents’ house. I knew the look of their homey and comfortable house could help sell the disturbing juxtaposition when something more sinister decides to show up. We shot over a two day period with a very small four man crew.”
The result is a video that combines a very simple look with disorientingly cryptic content. Schlarb points to the gaps and omissions in the films of Roman Polanski and Alfred Hitchcock, but also to the negative space built into his own music. “Don’t give everything,” he says. “Leave some mystery.”
Ultimately, says Schlarb, “I am very proud of the work and love that went into this video. It was an honor for me to work on it with Sahale and her crew.”
April 13th, 2013 , by John Beeler
March 5th, 2013 , by John Beeler
SPIN has debuted a brand new video from Fol Chen. In the video for “200 Words” astronauts launch into space, only to fall back down again. Aaron Ohlmann directed the video, which features vocalist and keyboardist Sinosa Loa of Fol Chen.
View some photos from the shoot here.
“200 Words” is the first single from The False Alarms, which comes out March 19th and is available for preorder now.
November 20th, 2012 , by John Beeler
Later this week, Sufjan Stevens begins his tour for Silver & Gold starts this week. If you’re going, there’s some homework. Listen to and memorize these songs, and then watch a few videos featuring Sheila Saptuo, who’s opening for Sufjan. The videos, directed and produced by Jeff Shoop, Rosie Thomas, and Deborah Johnson are featured on Pitchfork today. Click here to view all of them.