The Singer Emerges from the Shadows in a Dada-Inspired Video
Channeling the hypnotic repetitions of Hans Richter’s films and James Brown’s dramatic 1960s performances, Esser is rewired as a minimal wave troubadour in director Elisha Smith-Leverock’s new video for “Enmity.” “The reason why I make music is to capture the present,” Esser explains. Making his name with the colorful avant-pop of 2008 debut Braveface, the Essex-born maverick teamed up with Crystal Castles producer Lexx for the forthcoming Krautrock-inspired EP. Esser and his wife Smith-Leverock drew on old Dada and German expressionist films for the record's lead track, referencing Berlin-era Bowie in his sharp, understated attire and shooting on 16mm to accentuate the retro vibe. “I wanted the set to be as stripped back and focused as possible,” says Smith-Leverock, who has previously collaborated with London-based designer Fred Butler and ASVOFF’s Diane Pernet on fashion films. “The sets of old music shows like Shindig! were so stark. I love how they played with light and shadows.” Here Esser talks to NOWNESS about Eames, the godfather of soul and unrealized futures.
Does the video mark a new direction for you?
I wanted to do a classic performance but one that makes you stop and think. We were looking at some Dada films and took their idea of repetition. I like using old tricks in film or production that have kind of become obsolete because people don’t do those things anymore. It is slow moving compared to other music videos, which is a reflection of the music I have been making. I’ve been influenced by Krautrock groups such as Cluster and Harmonia; music that makes it hard to know where the songs start and end.
Which directors influenced the video?
Dadaists such as Hans Richter, and I really liked the films of Charles and Ray Eames. Charles Eames was the furniture designer famous for the Eames chair, but he also made information videos with his wife. Powers of Ten [from 1977] starts with a couple at a picnic and zooms out until it is viewing the Earth from space, and then it goes right back to the center of the molecule. It is incredible.
Were you looking for a retro feel to the film?
I like the idea of a future that never really happened. Maybe it veered off in a slightly different direction and this is what it has ended up as. The podiums came from some amazing footage of James Brown dancing on a little podium. As it builds up you can see there are all these backing dancers around him that compliment his performance.
Esser’s Emnity EP is out May 14.