Disemballerina's New Video for "Impaled Matador" Paints Mania and Depression in Gorgeous Noir

The Portland chamber doom trio's new video pairs a doomed ballerina with crackling silent film and dreams of self-evisceration.

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Jul 19 2016, 7:37pm

Music videos serve many purposes (or at least, the good ones do) but I've always found that the ones that work best do so because of how beautifully they complement the audio component—a happy marriage of audio and visual is difficult to broker, but when it works, it's magical.

Disemballerina's new clip for "Impaled Matador" is a perfect example of what can happen when a band truly pours all of its creative energies (and more than a little heart and soul) into a video project. Taken from the band's gorgeous new album, Poison Gown, the song manifests itself in grainy, black and white noir style, the graceful movements of its doomed ballerina bookended by the cries of dying animals. The entire video (directed by Marit Schmidt and Myles Donovan) is truly an experience, one that was inspired both by classic silent films and one of its creators' own struggles mental illness.

Donovan, who plays viola and harp in the chamber doom trio, gave us a lengthy statement about the genesis of "Impaled Matador" and the story behind its striking imagery; the edited version is below, as is our exlusive premiere of the video itself.

"We kept the entire collective of this project contained within the band itself; every single person involved has played at some point over the years as a member of Disemballerina. The director, Marit Schmidt, played viola on our previous album, Undertaker, and Fiona Petra, the featured dancer, briefly performed violin with us as a guest in 2011. The remaining members of the band all helped as the film crew.

The original theme of the song itself was less a criticism of an existing cultural practice and more a symbolization of mutual tragedy and a horrible, doomed situation with no victor. For the music video, however, we decided to turn the bullfight battle inward and take on the concept of one human being living with the reality of bipolar disorder—a mental illness that effects many people I know, love and share a diagnosis with.

Shortly before I began drawing up a storyboard of shot ideas with Marit, a friend of mine contacted me in a state I recognized immediately as severe mania. It wasn't until they mentioned having had made an attempt to slice open their own stomach that I began to get worried. I convinced my friend that it was time to check into a psychiatric hospital temporarily for their own safety and rode with them there. During that time, we discussed periods over the years where we had both admittedly lost control of our own minds, of the hazards and frustrations of available prescription medications and of the oddly cathartic fantasy of self-evisceration while dealing with mental chaos.

By the end of the conversation, my friend was comfortable enough to check themself in, I was reminded of how much I love their strength and intelligence, and the motivation of wanting to cut out your own organ in the name of control seemed less impulsively absurd to me; if only we could just amputate the existing condition that makes our heads this way, rather than subdue it into a mere dormant stage like a lithiumed volcano.

While the minimal lo-fi, black and white framing aesthetics of the video were brainstormed after watching Segundo de Chomon's famous 1907 silent film, Le Spectre Rouge, the idea of choreographing a performance depicting the extremities of both mania and depression using just one dancer throughout is strongly rooted in a familiarity of living long periods with bipolar disorder. In the video, as different beings emerge from the same physical tapestry, their ranging states are revealed in their movements, rather than their identical appearances; mania careens and pirouettes high speed in reverse with a burning shawl, depression staggers bleeding gradually out of her clutched stomach in slow motion, apathy writhes invisible to the world on the floor, and a re-emerging central self attempts to shepard them all back together, gracefully balancing flames on her arms like a human candlebra."

Catch Disemballerina live at Portland, OR's PDX Pop Now! fest on July 24, and purchase Poison Gown directly from the band here—Svart Records will be releasing a vinyl version in the coming months, so keep your eyes peeled for that, as well.