Two Star Symphony is one of Houston's best musical treasures, offering classic music with an edge that makes it the equivalent of any hard-rock star. Now they've put together a music video directed and conceived by violinist Jerry Ochoa that is already in competition for video of the year, as far as I'm concerned. It's a sprawling, haunted gem called "The Ninth Level."
The setup is pretty standard: young beautiful people decided to drive out to a creepy house in the middle of the night to investigate the site of a famous killing, in this case ghostly counterparts to TSS themselves. One girl decides to make with the communion of spirits, who oblige by showing up for a midnight concert, while the rest wander the dilapidated building uncovering more and more unnerving things.
"One of the interests that first drew Two Star to each other was a shared fascination with the macabre, so I think it's pretty natural that our music and video releases reflect that," says Ochoa via email. "We don't generally think of our music as depressing though - it's more like we're all delighted by skeletons, witches, devils, etc. so we're drawn to the subjects that involve that stuff."
The setting itself becomes a gift of a character in "Ninth Level." The house is in a tiny town in West Texas. Built in the late 1840s out of limestone, it's been abandoned since 1940. It still contains most of the original furnishings and books you see in the video's library scenes, but everything is exposed to the elements so it's gently rotting away.
"There's also a vulture colony living on one of the top floors, so there's a whole area of the house you can't go into, between the weak floors and vulture nests.," says Ochoa, just to give the whole thing another level of creepy.
It took a $5,000 Indiegogo campaign to make the video happen, and it really shows. It's a beautifully lit endeavor that puts it heads above most locally produced cinemaudio, all blood reads and ethereal blues. Books fly from the shelves of the library to attack the kids, while pictures of a witch burning come to screaming life.
The book used in the shoot was actually a hundred year old Greek bible with translations and illustrations loaned to the band by the family of Sophia Vassilakidis, who also animated the gruesome screaming images that are so amazingly done.
Ochoa drew a lot of inspiration from the work of horror director Dario Argento, and uses the same kind of senseless dread that was the hallmark of that master. You never really learn anything in the course of the video. Why was the band tortured to death and now are chained to their house? No idea, but you know it was bad.
Why do trees bleed and lights scream? Sorry, that's for your fevered mind to decide. All "Ninth Level" offers you is a brief chance encounter with the uncanny, and it's wonderfully done to the point of perfection.
Ochoa planned to use the video as practice to prepare for more feature length film outings, and if it's any indication then clearly he's going to be a force to reckon with in the coming years. Just as long as he doesn't stop making Two Star Symphony videos, because this is just awesome to behold. Check it out below.
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