Daniel O'Sullivan is a ridiculously talented, multiinstrumentalist that records under so many different monikers he's damn near impossible to keep up with. You might save yourself some time by just assuming any new depressing song sung in an English accent is by him.
His latest work in video form comes under the header of Mothlite. It's a semi-animated mindfuck directed by Kristin Boyesen called "Seeing In the Dark." Right from the get go it takes mentally down roads that you don't want to travel, with an endlessly repeating, hypnotic wave of fanged mouths that somewhere uncomfortably remind a viewer of vagina dentata.
Such repeating mosaics, including desperately reaching hands and broken hearts, make up a good part of the video, serving as a kind of visual hypnotic induction technique. Basic hypnotic practice is to engage the attention through repeating, mental stimulation that lowers the subject into a lower conscious state. From there, the hypnotist can work the actual intended message of the hypnosis session.
Basically, O'Sullivan and Boyesen do exactly that, but instead of trying to help someone lose weight or stop smoking they drop your ass right into a horrifying nightmare.
"I think I had about five nightmares a week from when I was old enough to be capable of waking up screaming," said Boyensen via email. "When I stopped having nightmares I started watching horror movies. I've always been fascinated by what moves in the dark. Whether that be monsters, shadows, conscience, my imagination or a perception of reality."
Amid the self-consuming animations, O'Sullivan sits in a darkened room singing to the audience. At first, it's a jar from the white backgrounds and simple, bright colors of the animated segments. Suddenly, instead of being inundated with Hells test pattern, all the world is shadows... then those shadows come to life.
You see O'Sullivan's silhouetted head behind him as he croons the words, but the shade behind him stops singing and begins slowly opening its mouth full of razor sharp teeth. As the camera pans from O'Sullivan lounging like Trent Reznor in a strange chair, black ghosts dart in and out of existence at every turn, while clawed hands reach from the darkness surrounding the singer.
"The dark is the holder of many things, amongst which are monsters, conscience and a perception of reality," says Boyensen of the scene. "You think you see a man standing in the closet, but it's really just a broom and a fire extinguisher. You think you see a broom and a fire extinguisher, but it's actually a monster.
"The man in the chair is aware of what's alive behind his back, he can feel that his conscience, his imagination and his fears are reaching out for him, he knows that his shadow doesn't reflect his actual shapes, he is true to himself, he has accepted his darkness," he adds. "He feels lighter. He is seeing in the dark."
It's odd how well the video comes together as a coherent and mesmerizing whole. Boyensen shot the footage of O'Sullivan two years ago, with a completely different concept. Suddenly, the project needed finishing, and with O'Sullivan in London and Boyensen in Oslo there wasn't going to be time to film further. So Boyensen went to work animating to tie it all together, finishing on the day of her grandmother's funeral.
"I wrote it so long ago, it's hard to even relate to the version of me that wrote it," said O'Sullivan. "But the luminal nature of the song and the themes of impermanence are mirrored so beautifully I couldn't imagine any other visual accompaniment. That's why I asked Kristin to work on this. She has a way of making ESP seem so tangible."
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SHOW ME HOW
Death and fear, consumption and absorption, these are the themes that make up "Seeing in the Dark." It's a haunting, loving piece of cinemaudio that draws you down the rabbit hole. Check it out below.