Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Video of the week: Star Guitar

Dance music videos. Oh, the awful pain they inflict on our tiny eyes.

Do you remember the early days of acid house? Back then, Altern8 and Guru Josh used their videos to replicate the effect of staring directly into a strobe light for ten hours. Often, a silhouetted chanteuse would warble against a backdrop of self-perpetuating fractal computer graphics - ie a screensaver. The videos generally induced bigger headaches than the music.

That style is still the dominant dance music video form, although Ministry of Sound have carved out a niche in making their videos look like tired 80s porn. (Someone really needs to tell them, and Madonna, that leotards are just not going to make a comeback.)

Luckily, there are a few dance music acts that have major label contracts some money to spend on videos. Chemical Brothers, in particular, have made several stunning videos with big-name directors.

Star Guitar is a prime example. Video directors often talk about marrying visuals to the music, but here the two are inseparable. Michel Gondry has constructed this video in the same way the Chemicals construct the song - using samples. The camera remains fixed, looking out a train window at the passing landscape. But every element of that landscape is a direct representation of a sampled instrument in the song. When a power station passes you in the video, a kick drum plays in the song. When a hand claps, you see a telegraph pole.

Like many people, I didn't get this video first time round. You really do have to pay attention to see how intricately all the images are sewn together. Watch it several times and you'll keep on spotting new things. But it'll still inflict pain on your tiny eyes. Some things never change.

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