Photo by Michael Busse
On his experience viewing our earth from the surface of the moon, Neil Armstrong was quoted as saying, “It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” Such extraordinary circumstances aren’t mandatory for conjuring feelings of intense cosmic loneliness, the sensation can happen anywhere, at any time. In the new video from BOMBZ, a lone astronaut grapples with these feelings, disassociating from his current situation and musing on the course of events that brought him to where he is.
Dreamily distorted synths and a mechanical drumbeat form a sonic backdrop that calls to mind Boards Of Canada or Tycho, but beneath it all is a creeping paranoia heightened by pulsing psychedelic colors like a glitched out visualizer from an early build of Winamp. The sense of weightlessness and helplessness is palpable, but this Space Oddity isn’t floating in a tin can high above the Earth, he’s drifting through life somehow arriving at places that he’s not sure if he’s supposed to be there. His life isn’t the vision he once had. Life was supposed to be perfect, but rather than a grand mansion his address is a humble apartment.
What Mansion draws a parallel line with Talking Heads’ Once In A Lifetime with both David Byrne and BOMBZ’s astronaut working through similar crises, even using similar techniques to place them within surreal backgrounds and visual samples. But where Byrne devolves into a train wreck of neurosis becoming increasingly twitchy and sweat soaked as the video progresses, the astronaut maintains a relatively even keel in spite of the psychedelic chaos unfolding around him. He’s definitely freaking out that his reality doesn’t align with his expectations, but he’s keeping it together on the surface because he hopes this trip is temporary.
One of the most striking scenes in the video is actually concert footage, but filmed from the back of the crowd. The band is small and the view is obstructed by a wall of people, most with their phones aloft, recording. In this segment the viewer and the astronaut are one and the same, dealing with loneliness even amidst a crowd, passive and distant in the face of events that should involve active participation. But even those that seem to be engaging with the experience are isolated within virtual walls watching the performance through the tiny glow of their phones, oblivious to the fact that they too are drifting through life just as much as the lone astronaut. Everyone chose to be there, all for different reasons, but is this really where everyone wants to be or just where they think they should be?
The astronaut is a common character in popular culture because it is an icon of progress, adventure, and hope. But though the astronaut may escape the Earth’s gravity he still carries baggage, a rocket man burning out his fuse up there, all alone. Even if he manages to come back down his reality may not match the visions created in his mind. The choice of whether or not to accept reality, escape further into dreams, or build the mansion originally envisioned is entirely up to the astronaut, and that can seem a very lonely prospect.