Hejira: Litmus Test

An Experimental Live Performance in the House of Dreams from Matthew Herbert's New Charges

A meticulously shot sweep through a Victorian terraced house from garden to rooftop provides the beguiling video to Hejira's “Litmus Test,” shot by director Faith Millin. Bassist Rahel Debebe-Dessalegne and guitarist Sam Beste duet in the bedroom and Alex Reeve plays lead guitar on the landing, while the living room hosts drummer Alexis Nunez, and a small choir harmonize in the attic of the London property known as to as the 'House of Dreams.' This musical Tower Of Babel is home to the entire quartet, whose backgrounds stretch from Chile, Hungary, Germany, and Ethiopia. Debut album Prayer Before Birth will be be released October 21 via Accidental, the label run by maverick British sound artist and Björk collaborator Matthew Herbert. “They strive to create music that's both cerebral and emotional,” says Herbert of the foursome that he produced. “It's been great to hear it evolve into something so confident and symphonic.” NOWNESS put questions to band spokesman Reeve to talk collective creativity and sonic possibilities. 

How did the House Of Dreams affect your creative process?
Alex Reeve:
We transformed the house into a recording studio, utilizing all areas from living rooms to bathrooms to experiment with different sonic possibilities. We have always been attracted to the idea that the space in which you perform or record becomes part of the composition. Instead of trying to control the natural resonance of each room, we fully embraced the unique character of each space and factored this into our production and recording decisions.

Did this mean that the house has a presence in your music?
By the end we really knew the sound of the house as much as we would the sound of an instrument. As a result it became an extension of Hejira, and its voice is clearly audible on our album and in the live films we created there.

On a practical level, how did you and the director set the video up?
We were adamant that the audio should all be recorded live; if it had been playback it would have lost a large part of what makes it unique, becoming more of a music video than a live film. Perhaps the hardest and also the most amusing was trying to follow the female protagonist through the house without getting any of the crew in shot, which led to people being locked away in toilets and cowering behind curtains.

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    New York La La La

    Hollywood Skaters Prowl the Set in an Aaron Rose and André Saraiva Film for L'Officiel Hommes

    “Paramount Studios is fantastical by nature,” says artist and filmmaker Aaron Rose of the faux New York City streets and sun-baked Los Angeles location of today’s cinematic fashion short. Sweeping through the vacant lot, Rose and his co-director, L'Officiel Hommes editor André Saraiva shot a dreamlike portrait of professional skateboarders Jerry Hsu, Austyn Gillette, and Josh Harmony, besuited in Dior Homme, Saint Laurent, and Prada. Set to the epic pop of Duran Duran’s “The Chauffeur,” the slow-motion skaters are confronted by a trio of models in lace lingerie led by Belgian beauty Anouck Lepere, in a touch that echoes the band's 1980s videos. “It is his bicoastal perspective which started the idea for the film,” explains Saraiva of Rose’s past as founder of downtown New York institution Alleged Gallery, that is juxtaposed with his recent experience as a West Coast-dwelling artist. “We share a similar evolutionary process as creators, so it was natural to work together,” says Rose of his multidisciplinary Paris-based collaborator. “We were shooting two elements simultaneously, this film and a photo editorial. André would be shooting photos, then all of a sudden, he would hand me the stills camera. It was a wonderfully creative ping-pong volley.”

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    Soko: Monster Love

    The Multitalented Musician and Actress Duets with Ariel Pink Over a Bittersweet LA Tale

    A street-stranded mermaid fends off a kitsch beast in Monster Love, a new VHS-recorded promo directed by Soko, who also stars alongside Morgan Krantz and actor, model and marine activist Hannah Fraser. Filmed in the Silverlake area of Los Angeles, the short is soundtracked by a song that shares its title, the French polymath’s brand new duet with Los Angeles’ lo-fi underground star, Ariel Pink, that will feature on her forthcoming album. “The whole thing was super DIY and felt like making a school project video with all my friends,” she says. Born in Bordeaux, Soko has starred in a number of films in her homeland, and recently attracted much acclaim in Augustine, a sensuous, César-nominated tale about a 19th-century maid consigned to an asylum. But despite her passion for acting, music remains Soko’s most cherished source of creativity. She has just released her debut album I Thought I Was an Alien in the US, which opens with the stripped-down and haunting track that also features here: “I Just Want to Make It New With You,” written with her collaborator Pink in mind. “We were friends, falling in love, but he was just out of a relationship and I—as always—was broken hearted,” the singer says of a near miss that was the catalyst for today’s film, in which she falls for the luckless protagonist. “We hadn’t shed the heaviness of our past. I imagined that after relationships, we all turn into some sort of monster, and only if we stop being monstrous will we ever be able to be real lovers again.” We got the two together to talk about recording, acting, and the logistics behind becoming a mermaid. 

    Ariel Pink: The song “I Just Want to Make It New With You” has to do with me a little bit, right? 

    Soko: Yeah, I wrote it for you Ariel! And you’re singing on the first song in the film, “Monster Love.” 

    AP: I saw the video and, like all your work, it’s so good. It’s touching, I can’t help but feel for the character. Who the beautiful mermaid lady?

    S: She’s actually a real mermaid performer—it’s my friend Hannah who does performances in Las Vegas. She goes swimming with sharks, whales and dolphins all over the world, and hand makes her own costumes. She’s really incredible. She gave me some footage of her swimming under water so that the monster could dream of her. Morgan’s costume was actually a Halloween costume made by my friend Diva: it was perfect, a monster costume with a heart on it. 

    AP: It’s so great, all this attention you’re getting. And your new movie [Augustine] just came out. How do you feel about the movie and your performance? 

    S: It was crazy, insane and one of the best things I have done in my whole life. It was the best adventure and experience because it was so far from me. The only reason why I wanted to do movies was because I want to experience things I would never get to experience in my real life. And then I get to be in a film where I’m back in the 1880s in costume, wearing a corset, being a patient in a mental hospital and getting diagnosed. 

    AP: You’re not acting. You probably would be committed to a mental institution.

    S: Yeah right! Well I was paralyzed in the movie, I had my eyes shut for half of the movie and I had my hand paralyzed. I don’t have that in my real life.

    AP: Well let’s hope not. I think that’s amazing. I want to make a video with you sometime. I want you to be in my movie when I make it. 

    S: I wanted you to be in my video.

    AP: Me too, but you know how busy we are. 

    S: But I’m glad throughout the years we always get to collaborate and you are always a part of my creative work as a constant pole and an inspiring muse. It is really important for me, and I love making music with you too. 

    AP: Oh my God, we have to make so much more together. There is so much left to do, we have just scratched the surface. 

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