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Lawrence English's Paul Clipson-Directed Video for "Cruel Optimism" Feels Like a Distant Dream

The ambient composer teams with the experimental filmmaker for a visual that's like "a waking dream."
Still from Paul Clipson's video for "Cruel Optimism"

Last month, the Australia-based ambient artist Lawrence English released Cruel Optimisma collection of compositions that he says meditate on the condition of power. Doom-laden drones collide with the gentle strains of organic instrumentation—there's moments of peace, but often that stillness will be destroyed by fiery thickets of gnarled noise. Today, English is sharing a visual accompaniment for the title track—one of the record's heavier moments—that emphasizes the dreamier qualities of his work.


The video was directed by Paul Clipson—the experimental filmmaker known for his sound and installation work, who's also contributed a fair amount of visuals to Grouper's recent work—and it leans on one of his preferred tactics to make a quasi-collage of striking images. The stark lines of a skyscraper, for example, are overlaid with similarly architectures in the natural world, like a detail of a leaf or a drop of dew. The logic is abstract, but feels drawn from the real world—in the same way a dream might dizzily refract your memories and emotions. In an email to THUMP, Clipson said he was inspired by the piece's "expansive movement, beguiling pace and evocative sound."

"While listening to his music, I rediscovered images I'd filmed at different times, in different contexts and in different places," he continued. "And under its influence, these unlikely visual juxtapositions grew into strange sequences and formed new worlds, becoming a sort of curious description of a waking dream, like trying to describe in images a forgotten tune heard long ago (and far away.)"

English, in a separate email, called Clipson "some kind of magician," whose work "extends this record," which feels right, in the case of "Cruel Optimism," the totemic power of which now feels like a half-remembered vision of times long passed.

Watch the video below.