Concept Albums And Prog Rock Make A Triumphant Return
You don’t see many concept albums these days—gone is the heyday era of Pink Floyd and Yes, the grandiose guitar solos and psychedelic visuals of prog rock. Well, not gone completely. Visual artist Yoshi Sodeoka, whose video work you might recognize from the prismatic Yeasayer tour environment that debuted last summer, teamed up with film composer and musician Daron Murphy to create an ongoing audiovisual concept album called Sibyl.
Sibyl draws from 1970s progressive rock, ancient Greek mythology, and shamanic ritual. It is equal parts psychedelic video art and experimental electronic music with some wailing guitars thrown in for good measure. Today, Sodeoka and Murphy release the latest installment in the Sibyl series: “Acheron’s Pyramid / Lyre of the Priestess,” a video that’s been more than a year in the making.
A couple of stills from “Acheron’s Pyramid / Lyre of the Priestess.”
We caught up with Sodeoka and Murphy over email to get the inside info on the project and what we can expect from the rest of the Sibyl series.
The Creators Project: You’ve made several videos for the Sibyl series to date. What is this one about, if you were to be “about” something?
Yoshi Sodeoka: I’ll tell you what this is NOT about: Illuminati.
Daron Murphy: But we cannot deny thematic references to the five rivers of Hades, the Fourth Dynasty of ancient Egypt, or magical seagulls.
Did you start out the series with some sort of plan or arc in mind? How do the videos evolve from one to the next?
YS: We go with the flow, just enjoying the progression of each piece over the time. And we’re usually working on more than one chapter simultaneously. So we only vaguely know where the whole thing is headed at any given time. It’s sort of like an exquisite corpse film project between Daron and myself.
DM: Back when we started the project, Yoshi and I actually wrote out a whole story about a pilgrim in ancient times visiting the cave of the Cumaean Sibyl. The videos were supposed to represent different visions and prophecies made by the priestess of the cave. But I think the pilgrim is still trying to make sense of the visions. Because, as Yoshi said, we’ve allowed the story to change as we go.
Did you try anything new in terms of your process or techniques for this video?
YS: Nothing really new. But process-wise, we started out by writing a song that was based less on the type of electronic music one would thinking of making with a computer and more on a sort of grand, over-dramatic brand of prog-rock music.
DM: We chose to use more organic instruments like guitars, strings, even a marimbaphone. And we melded those with nature and animal sounds, which have actually become a sort of motif in the series.
YS: We definitely took a bit of inspiration from King Crimson’s Lark’s Tongue in Aspic. In the beginning, Daron and I jammed a little bit to get some basic music ideas going together. Daron went back to his studio and assembled the final track. Then I produced the visuals all by myself.
Another video from the Sibyl series: “Violet Dark Spring of the Numinous Orb” (2011)
Was there anything particularly challenging about this video for you?
YS: After the track was ready, I actually left it for almost a year before creating any visuals to go with it. I honestly didn’t know what to do with the music Daron gave me. It turned out to be such a bizarre monster-sounding track, and I was kind of overwhelmed by it. So eventually, I decided to just start out by doing something casual without any big plan. My first step was to figure out a color palette. For no actual reason, I decided I wanted this one to feel a little brighter than usual. The rest just followed. I kept adding elements and arrived at this hazy psychedelic/ambient place. I would say it has a lot of unconscious influence from cubism, surrealism, and obviously visual art from progressive rock music of the 60’s and 70’s.
How many more videos are in the Sibyl series and when do you expect to complete it?
YS: We have about 6 pieces done. And there will definitely be a few more. Maybe a bunch more? Some will be short, some long. We just want this whole Sibyl project to have a feel of listening to an album with vinyl or cassette tape but with visuals. So if we’re keeping to that philosophy, it would make sense for the entire piece to be less than 46 minutes in total!
But we’ll keep doing whatever feels right. Maybe there will be no actual ending. I like the idea of not knowing when this project will be over. It’s definitely fun to keep on imagining where this will end up. One thing that I know for sure is that I want the whole thing to feel timeless. I hope it will still look and sound interesting to people in 10 years or even 50 or 100 years.
DM: The cave of the Sibyl actually still exists, about an hour’s drive from Naples, Italy. So we may have to visit and follow whatever instructions we receive once we get there.