Warp celebrates 15 years of music videa oddities

By Vincent Choi

Warp Vision is a collection of music videos from the past 15 years of the Warp music label—the home of such important-ish electronic-ish musicians such as Autechre, Aphex Twin, Prefuse 73, !!!, Anti-pop Consortium, and Squarepusher. The collection starts off with some danceable segments, then more industrial parts, then crunchier sections that remind you of eating persimmons on a children’s roller coaster ride. Next, the music style heads toward mature beats, most of which still put a large amount of strain on the listener (namely, me). Finally, the movie ends with a nostalgia-filled piece that seems to brutalize itself with its own beauty.

The visuals of the movie evoke the atmosphere of pretentious hipster lounges with gigantic balloons. Or like when I was at a sofa lounge on the 40th floor of a building in Hong Kong drinking alcoholic lychee drinks while meaningless, pretentious videos played in the background. (I kept wondering why they weren’t playing the Cremaster cycle.) Still, there’s a quality of thought behind the presentation of each image in the videos, and whoever creates the videos (sometimes Chris Cunningham, sometimes not) spends enough time to find a relationship between two disjointed images. For example, one video has a guy crouching in a dollar store and listening to gift-card melodies, while an irate customer discusses what the color “yellow” really is. Then, the crouching man crashes his car in the snow on purpose, gets abducted by a middle-aged man, and beats up a pig’s carcass in the middle-aged man’s art show while people laugh.

Some time ago, I watched Denki Groove live, and they had gigantic penises projected in the venue. So I thought it was a good idea to buy a VHS of their music videos—but when watching it on TV, it felt like my time was better spent drawing my own gigantic penises. The danceable portions of Warp Vision are similar to Denki Groove’s visual styles, but with more skill that can be too easily replaced with me drawing my own penises.

In the same way, a lot of the videos are sexual, but it’s like the art nerds found this subject too taboo to approach it directly. They’re very ambitiously frustrated with their efforts. Brutalizing a pig’s carcass was kind of sensual, and having the camera fixated on an expressionless young girl with hip clothing becomes arousing, but having Aphex Twin dancing with umbrellas between their legs is erotically revolting.

Most of these videos are in essence well made and thoughtful in a way that make my head hurt, like a juvenile lunatic ward with brain-swapping devices. They remind me of a Japanese movie I watched a little while ago called Casshern. A little background: Casshern is a movie made by a man who’s only ever made music videos. Most critics called it an utter disaster—not a movie at all, but more like a two-hour music video. Still, Casshern has awesome visuals, an inspired soundtrack, and three to five plots simultaneously unfolding in an attempt to explain what is going on. If you suspend expectations—like, if you missed the beginning of the movie the first four times you watched it and assumed that there was a history and purpose to it, and enjoyed everything else—it is a great experience. If you can project those expectations onto each Warp Vision music video, they’d be a much worthwhile use of your time.