Refracted Input

Clare O’Farrell’s blog on books, TV, films, Michel Foucault, universities etc. etc.

I’ve decided to add a new category to this blog – music videos. Music videos can be extremely rich art forms with so much packed into a short time frame.

The Avalanches are an Australian electronic group based in Melbourne. This particular video deservedly won the video of the year award at the MTV Europe Music Awards in 2001. It is a perfect example of how, in the short space of less than 5 minutes, a perfectly structured concept, short story and wonderful performances can have a major impact on the viewer. The numerous comments in response to the video on YouTube testify to this.

The video works at so many levels. The trapped miners with their still healthy clichéed singing canary in the background, find an unexpected trapdoor and emerge from their monochrome underground into what they see as a wonderful paradise of colour and glamour. But the audience sees only a rather tawdry dance hall with a couple of young wannabes in 1970s dance attire performing without an audience to two aging and bored judges. The miners, unfit, overweight and dirty are initially seen as interlopers but after a faltering start the older miner proves an unexpected virtuoso of dance and the miners bring an unexpected light into the world of both dancers and judges. All parties have benefitted.

On offer in this short video is a layered set of metaphors dealing with the transition to the afterlife, friendship, grief and loss, indeed a metaphor for life itself – the first tentative steps and then a magnificently played out performance in obscurity to only a very few who judge and participate in its virtuosity and then both celebrate and grieve at its end and loss. There is an evocative blend of time periods – vaguely early to mid twentieth century miners and 1970s disco meet in this strange hidden heteroptian space.

The music itself is entirely composed of samples and has the retro nostalgic and bitter sweet cheery echoes of so many obscure and forgotten dance halls. The title of the song, ‘Since I left you’ exists in Magritte-like dissonance with the sampled song ‘Since I met you’, adding further to the richness and ambiguity of the text.

In short, a wonderfully evocative piece.

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