In a way, everyone kind of likes to be left unsettled by a music video, when it's done right. Sure we can blame most of the Die Antwoord phenomenon on shock — whether that's a good or bad thing I'm not sure. But what's easier to celebrate is when 'disturbing' isn't the whole point of it, but rather a subtle compliment to a larger goal: an affecting song. It's part of the reason Johnny Cash's version of "Hurt" still inspires a steady flow of YouTube comments every day, or that "Mad World" worked so well at the end of Donnie Darko. And it's why the image of a levitating Thom Yorke always comes to mind when I hear Radiohead's "Street Spirit (Fade Out)". So just in case you were fixing to stare into a video abyss this afternoon (otherwise, bookmark for a more appropriate 2AM), below are a few more recent and relevant cases where sound meets chilling vision.
There's a tragic sense about Gem Club's music on its own. Their debut Breakers was one of last year's finest and most delicate collections—mainly just piano, cello, and vocals. Director Matthew Salton and his team focused on the Boston band's darkest shade, and rendered something truly bizarre, moving, and dissect-able for "252". Artfully shot, the piece deals with intimacy and loneliness, and inexplicable goo; as one commenter theorized: "Insecurity portrayed as disease. The horror inflicted when that disease is discovered by another."
This evocative school-set video from Zebra Katz surfaced last month and sent bloggers into a frenzy—there was something about it that begged for explanation, firstly who was Zebra Katz, and how exactly does one "read" a person? Turns our Katz is a multimedia/performance artist based out of Brooklyn, and the term means to put someone in their place, verbally and intellectually; so the slicing and dicing is more metaphorically speaking, still, the undertones are thick. And those masked dancers are definitely sporting some twins from The Shining vibes.
Karin Dreijer Andersson is a mysterious character to say the least. The cryptic persona developed in her time as half of Swedish electronic act The Knife, and then snowballed with her first solo release in 2009 as Fever Ray. The project would produce a tangent of hauntingly cinematic music videos, the first of which was lead single "If I Had a Heart". The clip basically hosts a house-full of creepy; we start on a very unwelcome row boat ride that reaches a mansion, where many, many lifeless bodies await.
Director Tyler T Williams has a real knack for tastefully dealing with serious emotions in music, as recognized on a big scale last year with two powerful videos for Youth Lagoon. But his run didn't start there; it was probably this 2010 piece for talented South Carolina artist Mat Cothran (aka Coma Cinema) that best introduced the gift. "I can only get so high / until it feels right to die" is a fairly morbid thought, and Williams stretched it into a tale of pain and guilt that ends in stop motion suicide.
The music of Liz Harris is primarily tonal; her lyrics are often hidden beneath dreamscape drone, or layered beyond recognition. 2011's title track to A | A Alien Observer found her voice in a new-found clarity, literally singing at the stars. And just when he had the song figured out, its video opted not for the space route. Instead two women kiss underwater, and then inside a bed of leaves. Oh, and there's more goo. This one's very open to interpretation, though unquestionably eerie.