21.07.2010, Words by Charlie Jones

Film club #1 – Stop motion videos

New feature! In Film Club, Henry Powell will talk us through some great examples of a particular genre or trype of video. This time, inspired by the back-garden bonkers-ness of Crystal Fighters’ recent In The Summer, he takes a look at stop-motion animation, and the folksy narratives thereof. Those of weak singer-songwriter tolerance should look away now…

What with the slew of varnished, CGI-drenched videos that swamp the innumerable music channels these days, it’s always nice to have something that appeals to our more pastoral sensibilities. There is a certain inaccessibility to understanding the modes of production behind high budget videos, simply by viewing stop-motion art we can see how it’s made. It’s something low budget that anyone can do, with only your own imagination constricting the creative process – while it would take years to master the complex software required to reproduce the video for Michael Jackson’s Scream , it would take only a few pots of paint, a camera, and a lot of patience to make some of the videos below. Even in amateur music videos; stop-motion is increasingly being used by artists on a low budget to produce output that is both creative and visually interesting.

This week, I have chosen seven examples of stop motion music video artistry ranging from the haunting surrealism of ‘Grizzly Bear’s’ Ready Able to the romantic imagism of Fat City Reprise’s’ video to their single Long Gone.

1. Grizzly Bear Ready Able

Since their tour with Radiohead in 2008, Grizzly Bear have constantly tested our understanding of contemporary folk. This video, directed by Allison Schulnik , is comprised of nothing short of stunning clay-mation sequences that perfectly reflect the bands eerie arboreal sound. A true testament to the capabilities that stop-motion has, to not just complement, but to advance a piece of music.

2. Crystal Fighters In The Summer

The video for ‘Crystal Fighters’’ ‘In The Summer’ does a similarly mesmerising job of supplementing the bands basque-folk come club music that emanates a hypnotising village mysticism. The video is as manic and unnerving as the songs deep rattling drum lines; following an unsettling narrative that could easily have been plucked from the deepest reaches of Charles Manson’s psyche.

(Read Crystal Fighters interview: ‘There are dances that are 200 years old.’ )

3. We Have Band You Came Out

London based three piece ‘We Have Band’ released their debut album ‘WHB’ on ‘Kill ‘Em All Records’ this April. This video, masterminded by Wieden and Kennedy’s (the advertising agency responsible for Nike’s ‘Write the Future’ World Cup campaign) Ida Gronblom and Fabian Bergulnd, does well to bring out the darker elements of a bland electro pop score.

4. Oren Lavie Her Morning Elegance
While the set-up is something of an IKEA advert, the music and the images for Israeli singer-songwriter Oren Lavie’s ‘Her Morning Elegance’ are blended together perfectly. Forming a well-executed but by no means revolutionary piece of video art that appeals exactly to that pastoral romanticism that is evoked by the simplicity of the stop-motion method.

5. The White Stripes – Fell In Love With A Girl

Little introduction is needed for French visionary director Michel Gondry’s ephemeral yet lasting work on ‘The White Stripe’s’ video for ‘Fell In Love With A Girl’. Shot entirely with hand animated Lego models, this video has very much bench marked this brand of music video making.

6. Coldplay – Strawberry Swing

Say what you will about Coldplay, it can’t be denied that they occasionally have the ability to leave you breathless. In an astonishing realisation of a stop-motion illustrated narrative, their recent video for ‘Strawberry Swing’ has the pure escapist beauty that videos of this kind should have.

7. Fat City Reprise Long Gone

Fat City Reprise – Long Gone from Cesar Kuriyama on Vimeo
Finally, and ending up neatly at the opposite end of the stop-motion spectrum, is a piece directed by Cesar Kuriyama for ‘Long Gone’ by ‘Fat City Reprise’. Towards a similar end to ‘Her Morning Elegance’, the video reverberates with sepia tinted romance making little attempt to bend or shape the stop motion form relying instead on the sheer effort it must have taken to make a video from 45,000 photographs.


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