California Sounds: A new video from Jonathan Wilson, DJDS remixes St. Vincent and SSION teams with Ariel Pink
Jonathan Wilson, “There’s a Light” video (Bella Union). The singer, songwriter, producer and musical connector has long tapped into the history of Los Angeles guitar rock, and in a new video for a song from his just issued album, “Rare Birds,” Wilson zeroes in on the reason: “There is a feeling in the California air,” he sings. “There is lust for peace and righteousness everywhere.”
Wilson knows of what he writes. Along a fascinating musical career, he has produced or collaborated with artists including Father John Misty, Erykah Badu, Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Mia Doi Todd and is considered an inheritor of the Laurel Canyon sound.
The vibe of the city permeates “Rare Birds,” which features songs set on arteries Sunset and Mulholland and has musical accents that recall — but don’t imitate — classic jams by Fleetwood Mac, the Flying Burrito Bros., Neil Young and that whole trip. Wilson succeeds, it should be noted, through a production sound that manages to combine both the contemporary and the classic.
The video for “There’s a Light” was produced, directed and edited by Grant James and, according to notes, shot on “obsolete Japanese Broadcast video cameras.” Like concert performances on a 1980s cable access show, the effects were generated through analog feedback processing.
The clip opens with an introduction from Los Angeles singer and songwriter Bedouine and features guest vocals from Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of the New York band Lucius. As with Wilson’s music, the end result is a vivid reminder that the vein of so-called canyon rock can still produce gold.
St. Vincent, “Los Ageless (DJDS Version).” (Loma Vista). For a new remix, the artist known as St. Vincent commissioned L.A. production team DJDS to upset the rhythm. As usual, the team of Jerome Potter and Sam Griesemer deconstructed “Los Ageless” until just the frame remained and then remade it with streamlined, aerodynamic contours.
St. Vincent (the stage name of musician Annie Clark) originally employed synthetic tones, a measure of high-end hiss and crisp snare snaps.
DJDS, which is finishing up work on its third album, replaced those tones with finger snaps, placed a spotlight on Clark’s rich rhythm guitar and added sibilant trap-style high-hat. Then, like two cheerleaders propelling a third into the air, they focus solely on Clark’s voice. The result is proof that Clark has a future as a house diva if she’s so inclined.
Ssion featuring Ariel Pink, “At Least the Sky Is Blue” (Dero Arcade). The multi-disciplinary artist born Cody Critcheloe, who performs as Ssion, has carved a fascinating life for himself. As a video director, he’s worked with such acts as Peaches, Kylie Minogue, Santigold and Perfume Genius; as a bandleader and producer, he crafts dense, slightly off-balance club tracks.
For his new “At Least the Sky Is Blue” video, which is taken from his forthcoming album “O” (May 11), he and collaborator Ariel Pink portray characters in a VCR-tinted set piece featuring a Mercedes convertible cruising through the city. Dressed in drag as the ghost of Marilyn Monroe, Pink appears as a vision being pushed along the sidewalk in a wheelchair.
Ssion plays a Liza Minnelli impersonator, and the protagonist is a Grammy-winning producer living the good life in the Hollywood Hills, replete with a curious posse.
The video evolves into a campy homoerotic psychodrama that references rock band 10cc’s 1970s hit “I’m Not In Love.” Then, as if shifting to the second scene in a dream, Ssion moves into a cover of Young’s “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black).” Why? Only he knows, but it’s a striking way to conclude a memorable video.
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