Stems is a UK based band who try to seek a new relationship between experimental guitar and classical instruments, being both energetic and elaborate. They manage to create a peaceful harmony between postmodern and neo-classic sounds.
The song featured in this writing is Anahata, a track of Stems’ second album, Polemics. The album was released exactly two years ago, in May 2013. However, only last month, and after a year-long process, a very suitable video clip has been launched for the world to see.
For this work of art, Stems collaborated with Jhess Knight. Jhess is a professional puppeteer (and puppet smith) living in Australia. I must admit I did not even know about professional puppeteering until a few weeks ago, when I stumbled upon this video. However, I was immediately sold by the way a simple combination of wood and string, together with tremendous human coordination, can create such a lifelike and natural experience.
The cute and curious creature we see moving about in this desolate landscape is Astrid, a puppet hand-crafted entirely out of wood by Jhess herself. You can read the entire story on Astrid’s emergence and purpose in this world here, on Jhess’ blog.
In the video, Astrid starts by cautiously exploring her surroundings: a vast, dry, sandy landscape. She then finds a toppled empty suitcase, with a bunch of small, heart-shaped glass pebbles in front. Curious about these, she climbs on top of the suitcase and elegantly dives of, right into the pebbles on the sand.
The pebbles and sand become water. Suddenly, Astrid discovers an entire new world. She swims around in it for a little while, looking left and right and up and down. Then she goes back up above water, but quickly decides she likes the underwater world more. She goes back under, swimming deeper and deeper until she reaches the sandy bottom of the sea, where she discovers a little bump under the sand. She scrapes the sand away and finds another heart shaped pebble. Only this one is bigger, and it’s shining beautifully. Astrid is in awe. She seems to feel some sort of warmth and comfort emerging from it. She touches it and lays her head on it. But then she looks up again, and slowly and unwillingly decides she actually should go back to the surface.
Halfway up, she looks back down again to the shiny pebble. What should she do? She knows it would be better to go back ashore, but against better judgement swims down again. She happily and gratefully lays her head once again on the heart, but at the same time she seems exhausted. Only able to move her head. A final effort, a final glimpse and reach to the surface before all energy in her body is lost and the shiny heart dies out.
Throughout the entire film, the music beautifully supports what we see. The cautiousness in the beginning and the determination when she jumps of the suitcase. The silence when she discovers the underwater world, the anticipation when she approaches and discovers the heart and the awe thereafter. The doubt when she’s hanging there, halfway between surface and bottom. And ultimately the final look upwards before all is lost. Stems always create a suitable breathtaking atmosphere. Emotional violin and bass is perfectly supplemented with more raw but subtle distorted guitar. This truly is “strings complementing strings”, as Jhess beautifully puts it herself.