Instead of focusing on one film, this week’s Monday Short post is looking at a trio of recent music videos from a set of vastly different musicians and animators. Say what you will about 2020 (and oh wow is there a lot that could be said), it has been an indisputably great year for animated music videos. Picking and choosing the best is almost impossible, so instead of picking favourites, we’re doing the much simpler task of picking themes.
The three videos below stand out for their unique treatments of video footage. True, only one of them really uses traditional animation techniques, but we aren’t here to get into the purist debates over what to call frame-by-frame video manipulation. Instead, just we just want to share three of the most visually engaging music videos we’ve come across this year.
On top of being one of the most cutting-edge producers out there, running one of the most adventurous electronic labels in business, and delivering a mind-blowing live show (which we had a chance to see here in Calgary thanks to local fest Sled Island), Flying Lotus is clearly a fan of the trippier side of independent animation. His past videos have included sci-fi body horror courtesy of Cowboy Bebop’s Shinichiro Watanabe, along with multiple disturbing collaborations with Salad Fingers creator David Firth (including a too-disgusting-to-be-screened feature). The newly released video for “Remind U” is much less confrontational than either of those collaborations, instead opting for an odd-but-soothing video collage courtesy of Winston Hacking. Mostly assembled from old educational films and other cultural flotsam, is a more measured, less manic piece than Hacking’s 2018 sensory assault Erodium Thunk (which won our jury prize for Best Canadian Short at last year’s GIRAF animation fest), but it’s no less dense. Like a journey through some strange liminal realm where cosmic phenomena and the collective unconscious occupy the same space, it’s at once nostalgic and utterly of this moment.
Impressively enough, it’s not even the only video Hacking’s released in the last month. Late in July he teamed up with Run the Jewels to make a lyric video for “JU$T”, which feels a bit closer to Erodium Thunk‘s how’d-they-make-that collage aesthetic. Both are incredibly impressive pieces of video art.
The video for Lydia Lee’s “Grey to Green” takes a very different approach to video-edited wistfulness (and fair enough; Lee and FlyLo are about as far removed from each other as musicians get). Still, the videos have more in common than it might seem. Like Hacking, director Marcos Sánchez is creating a surrealized sense of nostalgia by picking pieces of old films and twisting them into a new context. In this case, the clips look more like old home movies—a visual format that’s basically become synonymous with sappy sequences and longing for the past—and added in beautifully hand-drawn animation that recalls Disney’s fairy-tale classics. At least, until more nightmarish visions begin to intrude, like negative thoughts or unpleasant memories that disrupt even the most beautiful recollections. Sánchez’s animation is stellar throughout, and the mood it creates alongside Lee’s lovely tune is absolutely one of a kind.
There’s no point trying to draw another parallel between the first two films and Dirk Koy’s video for “Out of Sight” by Yello. No, Koy is onto something entirely different here, angular, silly, and playful piece for a band that’s been making angular, silly, playful music since the late ’70s (their most famous song, “Oh Yeah,” is one of those cultural hallmarks that you hear everywhere without ever really knowing where it came from).
Koy’s catalogue (which is probably best experienced via Instagram) mostly consists of one of three types of video manipulations. There’s the “Fixed” series, in which spinning objects are held static as the backdrop spins violently around them; the “Shape Study” series, where everyday objects are manipulated into endless geometric permutations; and the films where landscapes (usually roads) are stretched, compressed and skewed into impossible topologies. “Out of Sight” is an extended riff on the Shape Studies, where fruits and vegetables distort in a hypermodern kaleidoscope, while Yello’s vocalists strike ever-more-contorted poses. Silly as it is, it’s an absolutely inspired pairing.