Last night (7 March) Jon Hopkins released Emerald Rush, the first track from his upcoming album Singularity, with a trippy, mixed media video by Elliot Dear and Robert Hunter. Merging hand-drawn animation and live action footage of lo-tech science experiments, the video mirrors the psychedelic energy of the music.
According to Elliot, Jon was looking for an animated video with a narrative structure and came to production company Blink Industries with the vague concept of a boy in a forest, and a colour palette, as the musician often associates sound with colour. Elliot listened to the track once through with Jon and James [Bretton – from Blink] and, on the spot, came up with a loose story “based on the sound and shape of the track,” Elliot recounts. “It has a real sense of discovery to it, with a long intro that switches tempos and time signatures. It feels like it finds itself, so a story about exploration seemed like the way to go.”
Both Elliot and Rob had previously worked with Jon, as well as collaborated frequently over the past 14 years, so decided to work together on the video and set out, full pelt, with an eight-week deadline. Initially, Elliot says, the video was intended as a purely visual representation of the track, but as it developed “it became more epic and trippy, with visuals that connote drug-induced hallucination and clubbing.”
To achieve visual psychedelia, the duo dabbled in homemade chemistry experiments inspired by Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. “We fashioned a rig using a glass picture frame and desk lamps and created chemical reactions using things we found in the hardware store. When shot close up, the effects were really organic and intricate. When we ran the footage through some effects in post, we found that they looked like huge nebulas and supernovas. This not only looked great but meant that we had loads of footage that we didn’t have to draw frame by frame.”
Emerald Rush tells the story of a boy who discovered some rather familiar, otherworldly beetles in the forest and follows them to adventure. These details were depicted as mirrors of the music, Rob explains: “The track has a lot of crisp, gritty and glass-like sounds, so we were drawn to colder colours. We knew that the last section of the video was going to end in a cave full of large crystals, so gave us a colour palette. The central arrangements in the music have an unusual stuttering rhythm which helped us imagine the movement of the beetle’s shell and wings, which also led us to link most of the musical queues to the beetle – like the chrysalis’ rhythmically flashing lights leading the boy through the different environments.
“Once the storyboarding was done we went back through and re-drew most of them, thinking about the composition of each shot tweaking them to help the pace and motives in the story. We mostly used black line work and simple colour fills to save time and added live-action effects for the intro and outro to add a natural, unpredictable element. We wanted the video to be as cinematic as possible.”