Sure, you could assign a single clip to a single track, as thousands of songwriters have done since the advent of music television. But more ambitious artists have begun to take advantage of the limitless possibilities of video. They’re combining images and music in novel ways, turning expectations upside down, and, in the process, redefining what a music video can be.
Kemme, a young singer-songwriter who has never been interested in playing by anybody else’s rules, has taken a singular, personal approach to her clips. “Cyclorama,” her latest release, is really several videos in one – it seamlessly integrates key sections of three very different songs from her upcoming visual EP. Director Danica Kleinknecht pairs the sequence to a continuous story composed by the artist herself. Kemme and Kleinknecht cover a remarkable amount of musical and thematic ground in five and a half minutes. It’s hard to imagine a better or more comprehensive introduction to an artist with plenty to say, and it wouldn’t have happened if Kemme didn’t have the bravery and imagination to take a bold step into the unknown.
About the video
And if “Cyclorama” feels more like a teaser for a rapturous movie than a standard music video, there’s a good reason for that: Kemme is a recording artist with the soul of a cinematic auteur, and her music shares as much with the offbeat soundtracks to experimental films as it does with the contemporary mainstream. “Poof,” “Too Deep,” and “Kiss The Girls” – the three singles that have been excerpted and cleverly reassembled to make this continuous video – draw from dream-pop, experimental electronic music, sultry R&B, weird folk, and several other hallucinatory subgenres. Kemme’s music is a desert-shimmer, sultry and provocative, a natural score to eyelid movies. It should come as no surprise that she’s the niece of another artist who always took the possibilities of music videos seriously: Tom Petty. Visually, “Cyclorama” references Ralph Bakshi, Tex Avery’s work for Looney Tunes, Quentin Tarantino, and Jan Svankmajer, with each song written so sound like a film score.
“Cyclorama” is a collision of moody, gorgeous, engrossing live-action footage and vibrant animation that represents the often limiting roles of female tropes, from the femme fatale (“Poof”), to a doting partner that exists only for her male counterpart (“Too Deep”), to a scorned lover (“Kiss the Girls”). Sometimes, it’s deliciously difficult to tell where real life ends and animation begins., and that destabilization is, of course, part of Kemme’s point. The artist and her friends chase a cartoon wolf on an abandoned road at night; he’s a refugee from a colorful world, wild and dangerous, out of place and imperiled. Yet he also symbolizes the traditional male protagonist in Western narratives: the hero with nothing but possibility and potential. Here, however, he becomes a victim of Kemme’s narrative, his animated form representing that he is just a mere representation, formed by Kemme, the author. When her animated avatar meets him on his own volcanic terrain, the result is explosive enough to dissolve their identities altogether. But the story starts right back where it ends, and the last video can also work at the beginning, as the overwhelming sensation of love and loss propels the female character into vengeful “Poof” before continuing infinitely. But this time, the female form is set to relish in her tropes.