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Vampillia Paint With “Winter Ash”


No matter how fluent you are in the language of cinema, you can probably spot a one-take shot when you see one. Almost every example that people cite of this technique — whether it be the raid in True Detective season one, the opening to Boogie Nights or any number of lengthy shots from Children Of Men — are all meant to sweep you off of your feet. These shots are showcases of cinematic skill and throw the viewer into the deep end. They can be tense, overwhelming, or thrilling, but rarely are they subtle. In his video essay series Every Frame A Painting, film editor Tony Zhou points out that one of the best practitioners of the single-shot scene is Steven Spielberg, because his “oners” rarely call attention to themselves, and instead help guide the film along in an functional and economic fashion.

On the surface, Japanese avant-garde collective Vampillia don’t have much in common with Spielberg. The group have little interest in serving up accessible sentimentality, and over their lengthy discography they’ve confounded expectations instead of aiming right for the audience’s pleasure centers. Yet Vampillia show a Spielbergian level of restraint for their single-shot music video for “Winter Ash.”

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Like the rest of their upcoming release Happiness Brought By Endless Sorrow, “Winter Ash” crams in a great deal of information into a small space. The song’s foundation is a straight-ahead hardcore blitz, but Vampilla flesh out that blueprint with piano, squelching synthesizers, and violin. Instead of weighing the arrangement down, these additions give the song an ecstatic weightlessness. ‘Winter Ash” perpetually rises, with each new movement taking it to further heights.

The song’s video, directed by Shingo Murai, is the final masterwork flourish. There are plenty of music videos which rely on single continuous shots — in some ways the form’s brevity is better suited to this technique than longer narrative filmmaking is — but music video “oners” are usually about creating perpetual motion or an intense intimacy with the video’s star. “Winter Ash,” on the other hand, is a showcase in visual composition. The band’s ten members are arranged precisely so that they rarely overlap. In the same way you could listen to the song several times to keep track of each of its layers, the video rewards multiple viewings. Compare that with Shingo Murai’s other video for Vampillia shot in the same session.

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While this video contains more visual information, it’s far less arresting than “Winter Ash.” By playing with the viewer’s perspective less, Vampillia give them more ways to experience their performance. A perfect blend of function and economy.

Happiness Brought By Endless Sorrow will be released on May 4th by Temple of Torturous Sounds. Follow Vampillia on Facebook and catch them live at the following shows:

4/13 – SOTU Festival – Amsterdam – The Netherlands
4/14 – MTC – Cologne – Germany
4/15 – Feierwerk – Munich – Germany
4/16 – Divadlo Pod Lampou – Pilsen – Czech Republic
4/18 – Urban Spree – Berlin – Germany
4/19 – Paard – Den Haag – The Netherlands
4/20 – L’Olympic Café – Paris – France
4/21 – The Midlands – Lille – France
4/22 – Roadburn fest 2018 — Tilburg – The Netherlands

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