And in the end we all dance, laughing, into our doom: with a stirring coup de grâce of artful short film and extended song, the Swiss band CELLAR DARLING herald a new, furiously audiovisual era of their work.
Already a few weeks ago, CELLAR DARLING released their new piece “DANCE” about the mysterious dancing plague of 1518, an eleven-minute mammoth project that resembles a Celtic prog symphony more than a conventional rock song. Equally courageous and visionary, the trio of Anna Murphy, Merlin Sutter and Ivo Henzi is now breaking new ground visually, as well: the corresponding video could not be further from a typical clip. Instead, CELLAR DARLING take us into a nightmarish forest scenery, somewhere between TOOL and Shakespeare, between dark fairy tale and contaminated apocalypse. But in this case, we ourselves are the virus.
A forest in twilight, filled with shadows and chimeras. A crucified doll, billowing silhouettes, an abandoned birdcage. Then: three figures, rigid and silent, unable to avert their eyes. Three people trapped in themselves, while life rages around them, wounding, bleeding, dying. Enter three new figures. Veiled and masked, as if they were working as epidemiologists in a pandemic, three modern “Macbeth” witches, three Norns, who make short work of the silent figures. They blindfold them, gag them, in the end they lie in body bags. All this can be interpreted endlessly. But it simply wants to show the eternal struggle within us, life, death and rebirth, the aberrations of the psyche, the creeping death of our planet and our mute ignorance in the face of the lambent flames.
“My wish was for the audience to feel unwell while watching it,” says Anna Murphy. “Equally important was that it wouldn’t just be senseless brutality.” It takes a lot to release a film like this. An urgent film that draws on classical motifs as much as it exudes zeitgeist, a bleak metaphor for life that is sometimes just as bleak, for the end of all things. “The prevention of dance is at the heart of the video,” Anna explains, adding, “In the song we pick up on the dancing plague of 1518, when people mysteriously danced themselves to death. That, mixed with thoughts about our modern world and how we treat ourselves and our environment.”
The cinematic realisation of this chimerical shape-shifting eleven-minute piece, “DANCE”, is an iconoclasm that is equally disturbing and enlightening, conceived and visualised by opera director Olivier Tambosi. This matches the music in its dramatic nature: the song beguiles with serpentines of heavy riffs, surprising tempo changes and touching piano sounds, an endlessly woven band of prog, folk rock, metal, and of a disillusioned vibe that one would usually rather find in the grunge of the nineties.
Because music and imagery can also be experienced on their own, two completely different perspectives on the work open up. “Both need each other and were born simultaneously,” says the singer and multi-instrumentalist. “That’s why there are certain connections, of course. I originally had visions of wild dance orgies. But our director felt rather the opposite, as I said — the prevention of dance. And if you listen closely, the music also indicates that: The song is not really danceable.” Yet that’s what it’s called, a rather wonderful contradiction that is resolved through sound and image.
It is not little that CELLAR DARLING ask of their listeners and viewers with this opus. It is not little what the audience receives as a result. Months of preparation, a classic theatre rehearsal, three days of shooting in an industrial hall and the legendary Lucerne concert venue Schüür, a large team of cinematographer, stage direction, set design, make-up… the video a bizarre, grandiosely staged play without a happy ending, the song a snapshot of the band’s bubbling creativity. Both need time to unfold their full effect. Both deserve this time.
Those who thought they already knew CELLAR DARLING with “This Is The Sound” or “The Spell” will be surprised at how much more is slumbering in this extraordinary trio. And no later than now should they realise how much we can still expect from this band. “We just had to do it“, Anna emphasises. “With us, deliberation and planning don’t really work well, we just do whatever comes to mind.” Nevertheless, the band sees the opus “DANCE” as a unique project. “For us and especially for me, this project was very important. But I think it will also be the end of a chapter. There is a little too much Anna in this song. In the future of Cellar Darling,” she fuels the anticipation, “I hear a different sound. And I’m really looking forward to it.”
“DANCE” is also available physically in a strictly limited vinyl-only picture disc released directly from the band: cellardarling.com/store/dance
‘DANCE’ was produced, recorded & mixed by Tommy Vetterli & Anna Murphy at New Sound Studio and mastered by Gavin Lurssen. The artwork was created by Thomas Ott.
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