AJIMAL (born Fran O’Hanlon) released his new single titled “Animals” on Jan. 17, and the accompanying visual arrives today (Feb. 5).
In it, recurring rainbows contrast the song’s dark lyrics: “Are we lost? / Have we lost? / We’ve all killed in ways, whether known or not / A total loss, a total loss! / The softest hint of the imprint of what that was / I want none of this.”
AJIMAL is seen in the video crying rainbow tears, spliced by a flying dove. At other points, there is a sprinting wolf, a falling man, a riot enrapturing a city and a view of Earth from space.
“I came across Andrewknives via a video he created for Jonathan Wilson (who co-produced Father John Misty’s albums),” AJIMAL disclosed to tmrw. “He’s from California, and his work featured all of these beautiful but also disturbing acid-trippy kind of collages and I was really pulled in by that. I knew that I wanted to create something quite brutal to accompany ‘Animals,’ and my idea was to make something that felt like a beautiful nightmare.
“I remember seeing the Chapman Brothers’ exhibition where they took some of Hitler’s original paintings, which featured these very cold, bleak landscapes and then they drew these nightmarish acid-trippy rainbows over the top of them. That sense of foreboding and sinisterness was pretty dark but really striking. We spoke about the things that [we] feel are particularly scary about being alive today, and the idea of this sort of inescapable human tendency for violence. We wanted it to be gripping, but not exactly an easy watch.”
The London-based artist, who also works as a doctor, had previously explained that he wrote this song after 12 people were killed and 11 more were injured during the Jan. 2015 mass shooting at newspaper Charlie Hebdo‘s office in Paris. He saw it as the latest in a frightening trend of “supposedly ‘retaliatory’ xenophobic attacks on ordinary people across Europe.”
While this visual is more abstract, AJIMAL’s experience with darkness is as real as it gets. His stage name was inspired by a preacher/voodoo priest he crossed paths with while working as a field medic in Haiti during the aftermath of a devastating 2010 earthquake. The empathy required to be a doctor bleeds through into his music.
AJIMAL continued to say the following in a press release: I think it follows a pattern of fear which manifests as hatred and violence. With this song, Guy [Massey] and I particularly wanted to capture something really quite dark. I felt angry when I wrote it—there was an element of despair at the way we struggle to escape that inherent violence in us and the way we treat people whose circumstances and lives we don’t understand. I wanted to contrast these massive, beautiful orchestral elements with disturbing, unsettling elements [such as] metallic-scraped and distorted noises, really low frequency, pit-of-your-stomach sort of lows.”
The video works to bring those sonic elements to life.
“Animals” is a sample from his upcoming album As It Grows Dark / Light. The project was produced by Massey, who has past credits alongside the likes of The Beatles and Paul Simon. The two met after AJIMAL won a recording competition he believes he was entered into by a friend without his knowledge, and the real prize has proved to be As It Grows Dark / Light.
“Guy and I have recorded all sorts of bizarre things in the time we’ve been making the album,” AJIMAL said via press release. We’ve prepared pianos with gaffa tape and
coins, we’ve used hairdryers to blow toilet roll onto guitar strings to create drones and put silicon beads in speaker cones to record the vibrations, used hobnobs as scrunching footsteps, time stretched pianos, harps, strings, voices, musical saws. It’s been a lot of fun to experiment with.”
AJIMAL is scheduled to headline London’s Folklore show on Feb. 13, and As It Grows Dark / Light is due out April 17.