Scene & Heard

SOUND SEEKERS: Things To Read Into When Watching Leif V’s New Video

Sound Seekers by Fateema Sayani is published weekly at Read Fateema Sayani’s culture column in Ottawa Magazine and follow her on Twitter @fateemasayani  

L-R: Parker Shper, Adam Kinner, Philippe Melanson, Hans Bernhard, and Leif Vollebekk. Photo by Alex Cairncross
L-R: Parker Shper, Adam Kinner, Philippe Melanson, Hans Bernhard, and Leif Vollebekk. Photo by Alex Cairncross

Abounding Symbolism and Awkward Dance Moves Come Together

You might look at troubadour Leif Vollebekk’s new video as a contribution to the slow TV movement.

It’s not like your traditional music video in that it’s six minutes long and devoid of any jump cuts, flashing lights, or over-produced graphical elements.

It unwinds at a storyteller’s pace in the same way that Ottawa-reared Vollebekk does on his newest album  North Americana. It was released in Canada last year and debuted in the U.S. yesterday, with a video premiere on Paste Magazine’s site.

The video, for the song “When the Subway Comes Above Ground,” was produced by Belle Orchestre’s Kaveh Nabatian and started as an exploration of Montreal’s underground. As filming progressed, Nabatian and Vollebekk realized they were seduced much more by the people than the space.

The final cut serves the song well. The tune is about all those “weird little public transportation moments,” Vollebekk explains, and in watching the video you get a sense of all the random connections.

Here are some other armchair-philosopher takes on themes in the video.

Feet. There are so many feet. The camera was parked on the tiles for many shots in the video. You see people’s boot-clad legs as they try desperately to get somewhere else. Then there’s the happy leprechaun-like jumper who is clearly relishing the moment. The dancer? It’s

Vollebekk in cameo performing what Nabatian jokingly calls “questionable dance moves.”

The travellers in this video all seem to be twentysomethings, but they aren’t bearded, over-spectacled or faux-menacing in that hipster way. Their disaffection seems genuine and you can’t get away from their stares. Long close-up shots of faces coming into focus give you a sense of shifting identities and of people moving without progressing.

Light and Dark
It’s like the moment when the subway comes out from under a tunnel and churns along an open-air stretch replete with daylight and graffiti. Then it goes back into the dark of another tunnel. The video has pensive moments that are stark and focused, followed by tiny reprieves of colour in the background imagery, and less-pained expressions from the characters in this mini-movie. “Filming peoples’ faces in slow-motion while they hurtle through the bowels of the city ended up hypnotizing us,” Nabatian says. You’ll likely feel the same effect upon viewing “When the Subway Comes Above Ground.”

In April, Vollebekk will launch an American tour with William Fitzsimmons. This week Vollebekk, now living in Montreal, returns to the capital for two dates. They are full-band shows with musicians Parker Shper (pump organ/wurlitzer), Phillipe Melanson (drums), Adam Kinner (sax) and Hans Bernhard (upright bass). The January 29th show is sold out. Tickets remain for the Thursday, January 30th Arboretum Fest show  at St. Alban’s Church, 454 King Edward Ave.