Innovation of the music video medium has, for the most part, come to a glaring halt. Only a handful of times in recent years have artists figured out ways to spawn novel ideas in the field, causing many to ask, what’s point of music videos anyways? That’s precisely why hats are off to eccentric alt-rock band Shaking Chains, who conjured up a truly unconventional concept while producing the video for their new single Midnight Oil.
In the Manchester band’s music video, you’ll literally never see the same thing twice. An ~algorithm~ automatically grabs short clips from video sites like YouTube and Vimeo when you hit “play a new film” on the website. The little bits of footage are subsequently shown with the band’s track playing as the non-pausable soundtrack. And while leaving everything to chance sounds pretty bizarre, it sort of works in this endearing, quirky way. You might see a beauty guru highlighting her cheeks one moment and a church choir twerking the next, and be totally mesmerized by every second of it.
The algorithm pulls videos based on a number of search terms whenever it’s played, with the end goal being an independent and automated process that creates a video freely of the band’s ideas. This experiment could be seen as a response to the way freaky, know-all algorithms control so much of modern life, although it exposes the variety and extent of Internet content, too. Every time anyone anywhere presses play, the result is a music video unlike any other—in form as well as function.
Shaking Chains drummer Jack Hardiker told BBC that the purpose of the Midnight Oil experience isn’t simply to entertain the interwebs, but also to provoke thought. “If you watch the video a couple of times it’s not necessarily a pleasurable experience,” he said. “But that’s a reflection of some of the stuff that’s going on at the moment. I’d like to see the film in six months time or a year’s time developing itself and its own search terms, which will make it a completely different film, as what will be going on is completely different.”
The band got their name from a 19th century political poem called The Masque of Anarchy by Percy Bysshe Shelley. And, just like their namesake, Shaking Chains throws a middle finger up at the status quo. Rather than flexing control over their brand from every angle possible, they surrender ownership of their art, and that’s admirable to say the very least. They’ve effectively used their music to design a lens of the times.
If you ask us, the Internet needs more art like Midnight Oil. There’s this sense of infinite possibility and fresh meaning that comes from digging through these vast video archives of the 21st century human experience. Positive emotional triggers like those are rare to find in the digital world where photo likes are currency and Buzzfeed quizzes (though 100% accurate 100% of the time) are true determiners of identity. It’s ironic that in a media world so large, the level of creativity can feel so small. Unless, of course, you know where to look.