The heart-rending melodrama at the core of Exitmusic's songs has always felt ripe for visual interpretation. That's especially true of this year's stirring swan-song album, The Recognitions, where Aleksa Palladino and Devon Church unleashed gorgeously stormy sounds that embodied the musical duo and one-time couple's tumultuous romance and, ultimately, disquieting despair as their relationship unwound. While neither member appear in Exitmusic's eerie new music video for "Trumpets Fade," a highlight from the album, Palladino's presence is felt from the very first frames.
Directed by Danny Scales and Jacob Gossett of VOIID Studios, the short film opens on a young woman (who bares at least a passing resemblance to Palladino) floating atop the inky black water of a lake at night. She's just out of focus, like a blurry memory fading away. We then cut to her as she awakes in a bright, sun-dappled bedroom; and again to a different version of that same woman, arising in a dimly-lit rustic room in another era. Sharing some intangible time-spanning connection, both appear disoriented by their surroundings while retracing their steps through the house, their disparate timelines overlapping as if simultaneously reliving a specific moment from the past and future.
While the video's narrative is dreamy and oblique, it strikes a melancholic and mysterious tone suited for the thematic threads of Exitmusic's "Trumpets Fade." Ruminating in the aftermath of loss, Palladino yearns for newfound identity and freedom, singing "Laid in the dark / Waiting for walls to fall away again... ... All has gone away again." The song unfolds with restraint, building from a slow trickling of pitch-shifted arpeggios and burbling synth bass to the faintest strains of regal horns off in the distance, propelling the characters' search outside, through a forest path to a lakefront dock streaked in moonlight. As the video reaches its pinnacle, the song's haunted soundtrack crests with an epic thundering of drums and static while Palladino lets out one of her breathy howls into the night. Then, the song drifts away into peaceful resolution, with Palladino lamenting, "All has fallen away again / Oh the solace of the way again."
Following the dissolution of their marriage and band, both are already onto their next projects: Church is soon set to release his solo debut, We Are Inextricable; Palladino continue pursuing acting roles, appearing in the forthcoming Martin Scorsese film, The Irishman. But with this video, Exitmusic offers up one final farewell to the spirit of their creative partnership, and to the people they used to be, so each can move forward.
In an email to NPR, the film's directors Danny Scales and Jacob Gossett reflect on the themes they sought to explore:
"At its core, the piece is about a unique facet of dealing with a loss - how you don't only lose the person, but you also lose who you were in that particular configuration. It's this oblique, secondary loss and you find yourself relating to this other version of yourself in different ways. The film is about various phases of that state - how uncanny and alienating it can feel to sense this person that you were from this new distance, about how we can long for and pursue, but also be troubled and haunted by that part of us that feels lost - how it can be both terrifying and liberating to disentangle those versions, how difficult and bittersweet it can be to merge them, and how sometimes, it simply doesn't quite resolve."