‘Statement-making, message-driven, and eye-openingly creative, it’s a visual as phenomenal as the release itself.’
When an artist releases an incredibly strong, incredibly creative debut track, there is always going to be a sense of expectation around the visuals that go with it. Sometimes for budget reasons, a lyric video, or perhaps a visualiser will be delivered initially. Then, a month or so later, a more elaborate one may appear. All of these are of course completely accepted approaches, and regardless of reason, understandable. For Austrian artist Anima though, the first and only visual to accompany debut track ‘Naima’ is a bold statement that, in their own words, “traces our journeys from nature and being nature ourselves, into the cold environments of the mega cities we live in today.”
Right from the very opening shots which present us with a combination of stunning costumes and locations, there is a sense of professionalism to what you are watching. Slow tracking shots allow us to take in every blade of grass and every tree branch as we journey through the forestry. Then as the most breathtaking ariels sweep and zoom in on Green Lake, Upper Styria, we are drawn in completely. As a sequence, it’s sublime and provides early evidence of the phenomenal production value that runs through the whole video. However, while it all feels as seamless as can be, as cameraman Shyam Jones explains, getting these shots was quite different.
“We arrived at the pristine lake and started preparing Soleil [the dancer] by covering her with leaves and moss. Very soon though lots of tourists started arriving which made it a real challenge to try and capture the beauty of the wide landscape without getting them in the shot. They also kept stopping to have a look at what we were doing, so we had to take breaks, politely ask them to leave, and quickly grab some footage. Luckily for the drone shots I could fly high enough that the people are almost invisible.“ It has to be said that with the music accompanying these moments being almost meditative, you really are focused on the unfolding visuals. But while the musicality here may be sparse, what we are seeing is crammed with symbolic references.
“Rather than money, it was the dedication, and passion of everyone involved that made it all happen.”
“There were a few deep-seated archetypal figures we featured to depict the powerful heritage of the feminine spirit and soul passing on this legacy: Baba Yaga – depicted in the “Huntress” – alludes to the Shaman Women moving through the endless grasslands of Siberia. Moving on to medieval times, living in her castle of fallen might, Anima‘s soul slips into the skin of a goldfish, whose shimmering scales represent the shrill colours of “The Fool” – free to speak truth as she pleases. In working with costume designer Mael Blau we could really unfold these multi-facetted archetypal figures”
To the outsider – myself included – you would simply enjoy and take in everything that you are seeing for the sheer quality alone. But in Anima highlighting the spiritual connection, one very much explored in their interview with us, a level of thought-provoking creativity rarely experienced is projected. One so strong that once you’ve recognised, you’re able to pick up on many more nuances. Equally, with “the ever-changing faces of the Divine Feminine” holding strong throughout, as we journey away from the vistas, we are greeted with a myriad of ever-changing locations and energies that completely reflect this intention.
Connecting all elements together, with the musicality becoming more dominant we switch to city outskirts. Here, Soleil’s movements shift from subtle to dynamic while costume reflects the freedom of movement found within. Meanwhile, alternating cross-cuts between urban settings mix with striking imagery of Anima herself. Then changing pace again, vibrant city centre time-lapses overlay contemporary dance that hints at what is soon to appear. There really is a hell of lot going on, but with further symbolism appearing right before our eyes, there is yet again more to it than we may first think.
“Referring to the legend of Maat (weighing the heart against a feather at the gateway to the realms of the dead), the timeless truth of the heart is alluded to. It’s more relevant now than ever as our societal systems are going through a fundamental breakdown and transformation.” Explaining further how this links with other elements Anima continues: “In her choreography, the dancer depicts the path from being close to nature to the experience we all face living in an engineered environment. This often leads to alienation and depression. She reflects back to us how the fast paced city life devours our souls to the point where we become prisoners of our own minds.” I’m sure you’ll agree it’s all pretty deep, however it really does bring so much meaning to what we are seeing. So just how did such an elaborate concept come about in the first place?
“The visual traces our journeys from nature to the cold environments of the cities we live in today.”
“The intention was to extend Coltrane’s homage to his wife to a deep honoring of the Divine Feminine in all women. Just like in Clarissa Pinkola Estes beautiful story of “La Loba“ (Women Who Run With The Wolves), it was our vision to exclaim both a gentle and a fierce call. One that reverberates through the bones of our bodies, enters our DNA, and awakens the dormant knowing within. With this main concept in mind, details unfolded in the process of producing the track and the video thereafter.” With us having learnt about the copious influences behind the visuals, you may well expect the overall look to have been achieved with an equally large team and budget. But in fact, it was quite the opposite.
“Besides the cameraman Shyam, Soleil and Anima herself, various members of the artistic team helped out with set design, make-up, costumes, stills and whatever else was needed as we couldn’t afford more people. There was actually no real budget at all but the vision was so strong that all these amazing artists could be drawn in. There was an unbelievable collaborative spirit without ego issues and it really was the dedication, and the passion of everyone, rather than money, that made it all happen.” And in that there is very important learning point that other artists can, and should take forward. So with no issues in terms of collaboration, did any arise in other areas?
“We had 8 half days of filming spread over a month, and on one day we had to shoot in the city in the morning, and then go to the castle about 200km from Vienna afterwards. On the way to the black skyscraper in the morning, we encountered 100s of motorbikes on a charity ride. Unfortunately for us, they weren’t in a hurry so we ended up starting more than an hour late. Then on set, there was such a strong wind that we couldn’t use half the props and with only three of us for camera, acting, props etc it was really stressful. We also got to the castle with less than an hour to shoot, so we shot the rest of the scenes outside. In terms of editing, Shyam wanted to do it by himself, but the first edit didn’t tell the story in the way it was envisioned. Therefore, Soleil and Anima revisited their footage and in working with Shyam edited the version that was released.” And as I’m sure we can all agree, it is a final cut as statement-making, message-driven, and eye-openingly creative as the release itself.
Thanks Anima for chatting with Listen to Discover
Find out more about Anima at:
#PointBlankTalent: Behind the Music: Interview with Anima
#PointBlankTalent: Track Review: Anima: Naima
Disclaimer: For reasons unknown to Anima, the video for Naima was temporarily restricted by YouTube and Google. This has since been changed, but you may be requested to sign in to view.