With both electronic music and storytelling, sometimes keeping things stripped down is best. A simple-but-punchy beat and a hair-raising vocal sample that cuts through eardrums can go miles, while a straightforward narrative with arresting visuals can keep eyeballs glued to a screen. Thus, digital art and design studio Universal Everything's music video for producer Jeffrey Brodsky's house track "I'll Be Strong" is a winning combination that has our bodies moving while our eyes are stuck in place.
The vibrant short, in support of Brodsky's latest EP, includes a tumultuous storm of "pop-digital weather" that rains down on a group of animals relentlessly surging towards a distant volcano—the looming, omnipresent source of the house track's enticing hook. The song is epic on its own (that vocal sample is a dance floor filler), but the video makes it into a densely layered, intense visual odyssey.
Over email, Matt Pyke of Universal Everything explained, "I'll Be Strong is all about motivation, struggling and surviving." Even with its minimalist plot, the stunning technicolor wind and the silhouettes of the spirit animals bathed in it enhances the feeling of a vital voyage, maybe reminiscent of a mythic picaresque.
Anchored by a "ba-pow" musical flourish, the track itself conjures a "call of the wind, beckoning everything towards it," said Pyke. As the animals get drawn towards the Siren-like call, "it suggests temptation, desire, and curiosity," the designer noted. This form structured the action in the world Universal Everything created.
Compared to their more abstract projects, including the PolyFauna app developed for Radiohead, UE's "I'll Be Strong" was a chance for Pyke and company to expand "this [digital] technique into a narrative form, as we are beginning to introduce storytelling into our work, as a way of developing deeper emotional connections with the characters we explore."
Like prior work, the project was made using procedural 3D software (in this case, the program Houdini), which allowed the artists to simulate the physics of a hurricane in a stunning feat. The visualization of the invisible wind reveals the story unfolding, and the Mother Nature-as-antagonist characteristic was even inspired by personal experience—the "windswept moors of the Peak District National Park in Northern England" that Pyke constantly visits for inspiration. "The chaos of blowing leaves and dust has a natural link to digital particle simulations," he told us.
Worth adding, the artists at Universal Everything have been electronic music fans since day one—"Always the deeper, soulful, stripped down side of things," explained Pyke before tastefully name-dropping Carl Craig, Ricardo Villalobos, Mr. Fingers, and other early house legends. When San Francisco-based label Public Release Recordings contacted Pyke and UE, the design studio jumped at the chance to collaborate on a track that brought a contemporary spin to true house fundaments (cathartic vocal sampling, four-on-the-floor beats)— not unlike Universal Everything's approach to storytelling.
Watch the cut above, and see some stills and sketches from the video below, courtesy of Universal Everything.
For more information on Public Release Recordings visit their discogs page here.
And to find out more about Universal Everything, visit their website.