video premiere: annika zee’s ‘assembly’ is beautiful, controlled chaos

The latest single from the New York-based multimedia artist arrives with a darkly dreamlike visual reminiscent of Robert Mapplethorpe’s provocative photographs.

by Emily Manning
Apr 12 2016, 2:00pm

On "Valentine" — one of five songs comprising her debut solo EP Aging Aesthetics — Annika Zee's vocals are delicately glitchy, as if a turntable needle keeps slipping its groove. It often flickers, but Zee's voice never fades; it hits with gripping clarity, swaying between the track's lo-fi feedback and loungey piano lilts. Though "Assembly," Zee's newest track, eschews "Valentine's" bluesy inclinations for pulsing electronic beats, Zee's voice remains ever-strong. 

Today, i-D premieres both the Toronto-bred multimedia artist's track and its accompanying video. Directed and produced by Zee herself, the visual subjects an anonymous male body to the artful slippages found in her sonic compositions. It follows a logic reminiscent of Mapplethorpe's provocative portfolio —splicing a shadowy nude body among black-and white-flowers to explore the intersections of sex, power, and fragility. Frame by frame, Zee's work is jagged, but taken as a whole, "Assembly" is intriguing and seductive.

Tell us a little bit about the track. What feelings or ideas guide its sound?
"Assembly" is about qualities I found within multiple people in my life, like close friends I've had and lost, even myself. It's about people who surround themselves with other people but aren't really relating to anyone, because they resist being vulnerable and revealing themselves wholly. If you rebel against commitment and building consistent relationships, how can you really grow or learn anything? I think there's actually freedom in commitment, but it's a fine line that's hard to navigate.

How does "Assembly's" video illustrate or communicate what's at play in the song?
The video is rooted in fantasy. I wanted to have a male body be sexualized rather than a woman's — but in a subtle way. I could go on and on about how the woman is sexualized and is "thirsted" after while the man chases her — but that's just a social construct.

As a multimedia artist, how does your visual practice inspire your musical creative process or vice versa? How do aesthetics shape our relationship to music?
I'm always figuring that relationship out. Sometimes I don't even think of music and visuals as separate things. To me, music can really strongly evoke images. I tend to gravitate towards music that strongly evokes imagery or music that exists in its own unique sonic environment and through that, can be strongly associated with a certain aesthetic. There's a certain level of abstraction in that type of music, when it's not rooted necessarily in traditional structure and harmonics but instead in sound design and choosing a signature sound palette.  



Text Emily Manning

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