E.S.P.: Animal Totems in the Machine in "627"
L.A.'s E.S.P. only have a single and an EP to their name, but they've already managed to build something pretty amazing in their short time together. The Matsumiya siblings and their friend Bobby Evans are crafting the best electronica this side of Sweden, adding Japanese themes and a serenity to the genre that is as calming as a wet rag on a fevered brow.
The trio teamed up with director Chris Coats to craft a video for the song "627." It's one of the few videos of significant length that I can give a pass to without chiding. Too many bands and directors overestimate the hold their music can have over the ADD audience of the YouTube generation, neglecting the fact that when watching a video that's all you can really do. It's not like purely aural music where you can divide attention.
If anything, Coats and E.S.P. underestimated how entrancing the work is. The band enters an empty room in strange, formal costumes. The only ornament in the otherwise stripped bare area is a pedestal holding a crystal and three mats placed around it.
What's wonderful about the location is its improvisational nature. Coats told me that he was originally going to use a plain white wall as a background, but a friend clued him into an abandoned industrial refrigerator that might make a better setting.
Anyone who has ever worshiped within a small sect or cult knows exactly what it feels like to have a commandeered space rendered holy. It adds a nice touch of realism to the video, capturing the way pockets of the faithful hide their churches in unlikely settings.
Over a collage of strange lights and nature footage, E.S.P. communes with the crystal, eventually making contact with a trio of savage but noble creatures. The stag, goat, and ram inhabit an Earth-like planet, or perhaps another spiritual plane of our own. They hear the call of the band, and themselves focus on a crystal structure to send back waves of their own powerful energies.
"To me, they're communing with the subconscious, higher versions of themselves embodied by these ancient beasts," says Coats. "Something very natural, but otherworldly at the same time. Something you'd only see in a dream."
I find it interesting how keen a lot of electronic bands seem to be with connecting to nature lately. Sure, Asmodeus X did it years ago with Wolf Age, but it's only recently that club musicians like Niki & the Dove set their songs and hearts as much in the wild as they do on the dancefloor. It's almost as though part of their spirits rebel at the touch of the machine, and they seek to reconnect organically.
Or maybe that's just the city boy talking. You can feel the more rural parts of Japan in the work for sure.
"I fell in love with the song the first time I heard it and immediately contacted Aska [Matsumiya]." says Coats. "It was epic but also so beautiful and fresh. I just happened to be reading Haruki Murakami's book, Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World at the time, so I already had all this futuristic Japanese fantasy imagery going on in my head that just melded with the song so perfectly. I had lots of ideas right away, which is always a good sign."
Check it out below.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Houston, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.