I’ve been fortunate enough to cover and talk to some of the most creative musicians working in the industry today. Most of them I’ve listened to before, but when a friend of mine (the same one who helped me interview M83) sent me a music video to cover this week, I was perplexed. It has less than 5,000 views (as of July 30th) and an ominous thumbnail. But clicking on it was one of the best decisions I’ve made this year. This is sym fera. And they’ve given listeners this year’s most mysterious music video so far:
DISSECTING THE VIDEO
A mysterious music video like this isn’t exactly common. Rolling Stone called this track “one of the year’s best slow burns,” and that analysis is spot on. The tension built in the track is one thing, but when coupled with the visual of their new music video, it becomes downright chilling. Chilling in the best kind of way.
It opens on a moving shot of man, frozen in time, in the midst of shaving his face. We move shot to shot, slowly revolving around each figure. A child takes another in a headlock. A clean-shaven man adjusts his tie. A nervous man points a pistol. A woman squirms, mouth agape. All the while, the video is interjecting jagged, quick shots of men holding weapons, or men shaking hands. The entire video is filled with long, hanging stills with loaded themes of corruption, violence, and power. Director Alexander Brown does all of this in just a smidge over four minutes.
The layering of piano melodies offers a hauntingly orchestral sound. The vocals are reminiscent of Hozier and Jeff Buckley, but the cryptic nature of the song and video turns the instrumentation more mystical, and the vocals more bizarre.
WHO IS SYM FERA?
The group themselves is just as mysterious as their new music video, and they told me about how their song “is about corruption, specifically about how corruption of the individual can lead to corruption of the state and the globe. It matters what kinds of people are granted great power, so the video is a collage of one powerful man’s memories and fantasies as he goes about his morning routine getting dressed. These private mental moments reveal much about who he really is, and yet they are always by definition inaccessible to everyone with which he interacts, and over which he exerts influence.”
When I think of other mysterious music videos I’ve stumbled upon, “Rock Bottom” by King Krule or “There, There” by Radiohead come to mind. They’re eerie in their nature, featuring unsettling visuals and dark undertones. They left me feeling both fearful and captivated. “little things,” however, has left me pleasantly frightened, the type of fear you can’t bear to look away from.
Their original music video for “darkness visible” seemed impossible to top in terms of eeriness, but their 2020 work is pushing the boundary of how dark their themes and messages can be.
When asked about where they draw inspiration from, sym fera had this to say:
“Sometimes we can overhear the music coming from other rooms, and it makes us feel less alone. And eventually, we get this silly idea that, maybe, we could make some music of our own. Maybe those minds in those other rooms might hear it, and maybe they’ll feel something. We’ll never get inside their rooms, and they’ll never get inside ours. But the walls are just thin enough that there is music. So, maybe that’s something.”