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Video of the Week – The Below (Sweden): Artificial Lights (Dystopian Haze) ft. Aaron Sutcliffe (single)

An intriguing and topical song and video from The Below.

Firstly, a little about them.

They are a ‘Swedish industrial noise rock project’ with a vaguely ZZ Top image and actually a solo project of Bo Magnusson, the sound engineer/bass player from infamous Swedish industrial experimentalists Dr. Evil & The Boys From Below (1985-1992).

So far it all sounds a little Austin Powers-like but stay with me.

Here, The Below collaborates with the vocalist Aaron Sutcliffe (aka Yo-Haan of the electro-pop group S.P.O.C.K), as it has done previously on ‘No Place is Safe’, another politically charged single, one which explored the violence and destruction during the Israeli assault on Gaza in 2014.

The subject matter this time is the theme of fear and the experience of living in bomb shelters after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The video is about as dystopian as you can get. Filmed in Lviv, the western city that has escaped much of the violence elsewhere although you wouldn’t know it from the video, in April of this year, the setting is still disturbingly dark and upsetting.

In the early frames the two dancers take up the bizarre,  sometimes obscene positions that are every bit as unnatural as those of the poor souls in too many down-and-out US cities – Philadelphia in particular comes to mind – who are afflicted by the synthetic opioid, fentanyl and turn into zombies – living statues rooted to the spot.

I don’t suppose for a second it was The Below, or the video director, Kate Tiuri’s intention to link the two but that’s the very first image that was conveyed to me: two sets of nightmares; one created by a manufactured drug brought into a country across borders that no longer exist and the other courtesy of a power-crazed dinosaur relic in Moscow who doesn’t believe in borders.

Visually, it’s a treat, the marks of war all around, the abandoned Ferris wheel, the female dancers eager to demonstrate their and their nation’s oneness physically in the face of overwhelming adversity.  

Musically, it’s a dirge, although some kudos for the use of unusual instrumentation including bits of scrap metal, and lyrically it isn’t going to win any Grammys, but that isn’t its point. The point is that the world needs reminding constantly about what is happening in “the slaughterhouse” because otherwise the world will get on with its business and these events will fade into insignificance.

Believe me I can vouch for that. I study US politics pretty closely and even though I am politically to the right myself the number of right-wing commentators there who increasingly choose to side with Moscow makes me vomit.

So all power to The Below for highlighting these continuing atrocities, in a song and video that was made before this week’s latest horror show; the destruction of the dam and God knows how many people and animals.

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