Estonian avant-pop artist Mart Avi boots up a hyperreal human-machine interface on his new tech-noir thriller ‘Spark’ — part one of his new double single.
On ‘Spark / Soul ReaVer’, Avi veers between vitality and fatality; flamboyance and melancholy, and a virtual world where codified zeroes and ones are knocked out of sync. Sonically, ‘Spark’ marks a poptimist departure from Avi’s previous sound & vision collages, while the vampiric ballad ‘Soul ReaVer’ feels like a reprise after the spark has ignited and smouldered — the yang to Spark”s yin.
The double single is the first release from the visionary singer and producer since his master-work 2018 album OtherWorld, and another left-turn from one of his country’s most prominent musical provocateurs. His 2016 album Rogue Wave was awarded the Estonian Best Electronic Album, and all of his four solo albums have been at the top of Estonia’s end-of-year critics’ lists. Avi is also a two-time winner of the Tallinn Music Week Artist Award, for his high-concept performance art live shows. Ever since disrupting the Estonian underground in his teens with his leftfield art-rock band Badass Yuki, and through his solo explorations, Avi has carved an “outernational” niche in futurist pop music.
Avi toys with 90s pop and electronic tropes on ‘Spark’, notably with the New Jack Swing beat that morphs into whirling deep house, with dubby tones weaving through. The visual nods are there too, with the video’s searing graphics recalling The Matrix’s digital rain, and the fisheye effects popularised by Hype Williams in his late-90s hip-hop videos. And while the video for Avi’s last single ‘Back 2 Light’ trailed him skulking on the outskirts of a halogen-lit industrial estate, in ‘Spark’ he’s hyper-kinetic, with his body flailing and his face contorting, like the malevolent trickster Bowie in the ‘Little Wonder’ promo. He flamboyantly dances through the imposing architecture, co-opting grotesque moves from The Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth.
Director Ivar Murd’s fisheye lens captures Avi as he prowls through his fictional technopolis AVICORP, coming at the viewer from the dataflow of this sprawling, industrial complex, accompanied by his hexapodian assistant copywriter drone that’s creating coded messages for the masses. Will it be fake news or guiding light? Nightmare or saving spark?
Avi is framed by brutalist facades, glass-fronted high rises and futurist facilities, with an imposing concrete observatory the source of another coded message. Through the telescope, the authoritarian CEO spies a calmer version of himself sitting on red velvet seats in the fading grandeur of an old cinema theatre — a premonition or an alternate history?
Besides the fisheye effect and Avi’s confrontational close-ups, director Murd’s rapid cuts of circuits, red blood cells and hypnotic, timelapse footage of heavy manufacturing recalls the kinetic derailment of Koyaanisqatsi. And just as Koyaanisqatsi captures a “Life out of Balance”, the future of all those under AVICORP’s watch is uncertain.
“Spark” | “Soul ReaVer” double single is out on 23 March via AVICORP.