A dazzling combination of Iceland’s majestic landscapes, abstract macro cinematography and the sculptural sound aesthetics of composer and multi-instrumentalist Són, Cologne-based design agency Grosse8’s Mirrors is the first in a five-part multi-director collaboration of sound and vision for debut EP Rituals. Director Manfred Borsch shares how the Grosse8 team braved the Icelandic weather and creepy liquids to bring their interpretation of Són’s cinematic soundscapes to life.

When Julian Scherle (aka Són) – a good friend since our joint student days – told us about his newest project called Rituals, we were hooked right away. Each track on this album was to be visually interpreted by different directors.

At Grosse8 – a design agency located in Cologne Germany – we try to incorporate passion projects in our daily routine as much as possible. Things that allow us to experiment and walk entirely new paths, that remind us why we chose this career in the first place. Playing around, exploring and really delving into new ideas is vital for everyone here. Which is why we all were highly enthusiastic about realizing this project, and after sorting out finances and scheduling of our day-to-day business, we were good to go.

Julian mailed us the track without so much as a single word about its substance. Left to our own devices, we began analysing this piece down to the most minute detail. What messages were embedded into these cinematic soundscapes? What were the emotions that he wanted to convey? Gradually we arrived at the conclusion that it was about chaos and agitation. Something displeasing, that rearranges itself to grow into a magnificent piece of music. And indeed, that was exactly what Julian had in mind while composing, as he would reveal later on.

And so we began establishing the visual concept: Chaos, something unstable, bereft of orientation. What is large, what is tiny, what’s up or down? Soon we knew we wanted to incorporate nature shots, since nature usually does a decent job combining apparent chaos and logical order. While researching landscapes that matched our ideas, we stumbled upon the impressive pictorial worlds of Iceland. Nowhere else can you find equally diverse scenery on such small space. And incidentally, it would provide a nice contrast to the sun-drenched imagery we expected from the LA-based directors.

We then started contrasting the abstract Icelandic landscapes that we imagined with macro shots, to challenge visual dimensions. Together with Julian, we had experimented with this kind of approach already back in university.

Everything was grey, and the beautiful picturesque landscapes we’d seen on the web were nowhere to be found.

And eventually, we embarked on our journey to Iceland. Continuous rain, three out of four days. Everything was grey, and the beautiful picturesque landscapes we’d seen on the web were nowhere to be found. Whatever, start the car and go. We had selected a couple of spots beforehand, but also left a lot of options open. Luckily, we had Wi-Fi in the car, which enabled us to explore spontaneously. And yes, it was freezing! At times, even our 4×4 couldn’t handle the terrain, which meant we had to walk through the pouring rain for miles to reach our desired spot, only to find out that everything was still pretty much tinted grey. But then again, it fitted the music.

Back at our studio in Cologne we commenced filming the macro shots. Ferrofluid really is super creepy. We experimented with various materials such as wall paint, different kinds of oil, baby powder, sometimes directly poured on a subwoofer playing Julian’s track, sometimes on a simple baking tray or acrylic plates, which we laser-engraved beforehand using photos from Iceland. We recorded tons of material to have as many options as possible later.

When editing, we tried a lot of stuff, followed hundreds of different approaches and went a bit crazy with the material just to be able to say: “That’s not feeling right yet.” Obviously, working like this is incredibly time consuming, but for us it was the right path. Not least because it allowed us to fail and learn and try again, which isn’t always possible in our daily business. Essentially, this is what the goal of any passion project is. It’s so much fun and simultaneously pushes your company ahead creatively.

In its final form, the video follows the idea of pure chaos.

So, we wanted to extend Julian’s concept of his music using our impressions. In its final form, the video follows the idea of pure chaos. Every image is connected to an event in the audio track. Trying to grab a hold inside this mess. The hard hits on beat one of a bar open up the big pictures, but they are still somewhat distorted. Relentless, periodically recurring impacts. Like in moments of stress or fear. Deadlines, schedules … and in between: chaos. There’s nothing to hold on to. Laws of nature are constantly repealed, structures are demolished. Visualised by the woman’s anxious, entirely disoriented gaze.

After the first half of the clip, the visuals emancipate themselves from the audio. The video refuses to be forced to show big pictures on accentuated beats, it rather heeds to superior phenomena. It doesn’t just go from beat to beat, but tries to grasp the bigger picture. At this moment of realization, the stagnant protagonist begins to move. And exactly this departure reveals unimagined beauty, the pure feeling of freedom. It allows you to shift your perspective to find positivity and beauty inside this mess. Even when still nothing is perfect – the final scene is still distorted left and right and refuses to be ‘normal’ – by trying to see the bigger picture, the world may become a little better.

Camera: RED Dragon with Canon Zoom Lenses
Edited with Premiere Pro, Grading: Davinci Resolve

Check out grosse8.com for more projects!

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