Black Marble is a New York coldwave band with an excellent, minimalist sound that reminds us of the Glove, or possibly the starker moments of Houston's own Bang Bangz. They've teamed with director Timothy Fiore on a music video fro their song "Backwards," a work that is already penciled in for the No. 1 slot in our yearly round-up of the best music videos for 2012.
Fiore is definitely an artist to keep an eye on. His work is very Lynchian. We'd seen his predilection for dark woods, surrealism and enigmatic feminine subjects when he directed "Tell the World" for Vivian Girls. To that bag of tricks he's added an oppressive atmosphere of violence as strange as it is brutal.
"Backwards" opens on a lonely farmhouse out in the middle of God knows where. The band's only appearance is Chris Stewart inconspicuously playing the piano with his back to the camera in the extreme right of shots of the house's front exterior. Otherwise the video focuses exclusively on a trio of strange girls doing a legion of stranger things.
Shot in beautifully lit black and white, our heroines explore the area of the house and the surrounding woods, each armed with a gun, knife, or ax. Dogs and rats meander around the set, or join the girls in what seems to be the most sinister cake party since GLaDOS took up baking to compliment her science murder hobby.
Throughout the video, each girl sheds her clothes, basking topless in the moonlight and under the sway of naked bulbs. The result is not in any way sexy, as their respect for order and reality seem to pool on the floor next to their outfits. Brutal, primal destruction seems to be the recurring theme, appropriate for the recidivist message of the song.
A scene that is particularly genius is one where one of the girls rips into a feather-covered waterbed. She brutally hacks and rips, dipping her hands and face in the water that shines like black blood in Fiore's brilliant cinematography.
The scene feels like a frenzy, like the Maenads descending on Orpheus and rending him to shreds. It may be just a bed, but the symbolism screams cannibalistic murder.
It would take years of careful study to piece together the meaning in the myriad of bizarre actions that take place in "Backwards." There's cake, and bondage, and balloons, and eating from the ground with the dogs, and why exactly is she pointing her gun at us from her upstairs window?
Rich, lush, backed by a fantastic song and starring three bare-breasted deadlies, you can be assured that we're happy to undertake those years. Check it out below, but you should really full-screen it if you want the full effect.
We got a chance to talk to Black Marble's Chris Stewart and "Backwards" director Timothy Fiore about the video. Click onto page 2 for the interview.
Rocks Off: We've covered a lot of risqué music videos before, but nothing where nudity was such an integral part of the conception. Why is everyone naked, especially when it seems to have little to no sexual connotation at all?
Timothy Fiore: The female figure is a classical form. It's highly acceptable subject matter in drawing, painting, sculpture, and photography, but is somehow taboo in modern cinema. It's not meant to be sexual at all. This was simply a choice that matched the other stylized elements.
RO: On a similar note, what made you make a video entirely based on feminine perspective when the song is sung by a man?
TF: I don't feel that the video is from a feminine perspective. The subjects are certainly feminine. I get bored with videos that portray the band verbatim or conventional relationships like man/woman. The fact that the video stars a trio of girls presents questions about the situation or story that in this case don't have revealed answers.
I also find that a seemingly innocent girl with a gun, knife, scissors or an ax can be far more sinister than a man with these things. And lastly, I think a music video is successful if the song merely makes sense as background to that world.
RO: Of all the shot in the video, it's the girl stabbing open a feather blanket to reveal water underneath then bathing her hands in it that seems to haunt us. What's that all about?
TF: The waterbed scene is something we thought would look cool and it worked. Each girl focuses on some destructive act as the video progresses. None of these moments are meant to provide any profound meaning individually, and were chosen for their unique aesthetic potential and relevance to the setting.
RO: Is this how the song looked in your head when you wrote it?
Chris Stewart: No, not at all. The song is about knowing the world is going to end, but instead of sharing that information with other people, choosing to protect that information and gloat about it instead.
It's based loosely on a really terrible '80s nuclear-paranoia film called Miracle Mile, but in the film the protagonist chooses to try and help people, and protect himself. I thought it would be interesting to write a song about a character that sort of takes a step back and judges everyone instead.
Anyway, I never mentioned any of this to Tim, and since you can't really tell from the lyrics what I'm referencing unless you know, the ideas for the video arose more out of general feel and mood, which we scripted out with a lot of reference photography and a couple rounds of shot lists.
I think this is interesting because it's almost as if the song has an entire second personality within the frame of this video. You have this house where who knows what these girls did to become completely unhinged, and the video sort of revolves around that.
Although that's a different loose narrative than the track itself, the feeling of dread and being faced with something you don't quite understand is the same as the lyrical intention of the song. In that respect, they go hand in hand.