Apart from artists like Squarepusher or Four Tet’s collaboration with drummer Steve Reid, the fusion of jazz and electronic music is fraught with all sorts of peril. Theoretically it should work. Practically, it rarely does. But LA-based electronic artist Daedelus’ collaboration with the band Kneebody enters this great shortlist.
The Kneedelus album dropped late last year, but Strangeloop, a.k.a., David Wexler, and his collaborator, Laskfar Vortok, are just now giving the track, “Loops,” a music video. Like the song, the video’s pace is frenetic, with pulsating, colorful light, and various 3D animations, from rotating geometric shapes to angelic sculptures. It is, like the Kneedelus album, inspired by technological singularity and artificial intelligence.
Daedelus, a.k.a., Alfred Darlington, tells The Creators Project that Wexler and Vortok’s work grew out of comment made during a recording session as to the sound of the record. “Isn't it interesting that as we've invented listening robots, the first thing we program them to do is play jazz, as if to prove the point in the most ‘human’ genre?” says Darlington. “This Kneedelus album invokes the Singularity; I think it was Ben Wendel from the group who spoke at the recording session of being ‘crushed by the computer.’ We wanted the video to somehow speak to this without a narrative that would upset listener's take on the song.”
“Not only was the Singularity involved (which is very much tread territory for the Teaching Machine Collective), but also we spoke of their experience doing live visuals, treating the instruments of the song as input,” he adds. “What they've worked is stunning and on a deeper level, scary—perfect, really.”
Wexler, for his part, recalls wading into paradoxical territory when discussing the video’s concept. They wanted something between very spontaneous and messy imagery, like a kid’s imagination run wild, and a hyper-articulate manifestation of the music in visual form.
“There was a very free-associative aspect to creating much of the animation—at some point I closed my eyes and listened to the track, and once I saw certain things I started to put them together without second guessing it,” Wexler recalls. “In retrospect there is a lot of mental associations there that mean something to me, but the viewer can make what they want out of all of it.”
“Rather than be very literally about AI, we wanted to create a video that invoked this sense, the sense of a new type of consciousness finding form, finding its limitations, experimenting with reality,” Wexler explains. “We wanted a kind of messiness to all of it, like a super-intelligence brainstorming form into being… hyper-dimensional jazz.”
As a result, a certain amount of the choices made for the video were neither Wexler's nor Vortok’s, but those made by systems interpreting the music in various ways. Some of these systems directly invoked 3D manifestations of different instruments, whereas others were conceptual systems put in place by Wexler and Vortok in the animating and editing process.
Everything seen in the video is digital, except for certain subliminal elements, which Wexler did not name. The two used Cinema 4D to animate the video’s rotating forms, then After Effects to input different parts of the track and interpret them as 3D forms, as well as to modulate post effects. Vortok then edited the video in Final Cut.
"Vortok initially micro-edited the whole video to every change in the track. I showed it to a few people and they were terrified,” Wexler says. “I suppose I was a little scared of it, too, and while it was kind of a statement, nothing really breathed or had life in it—it was like some mathematical monster. Though we preserved that in the center of the piece, we eventually opted to have moments that were a little bit more linear, and some moments that carried with them some randomness and playful messiness, which made the piece a little more watchable, and less stubbornly conceptual.” Check out "Loops" below: