Brooklyn avant-pop band Cuddle Magic set up a makeshift kissing booth outside its show at New York's Bowery Ballroom and invited fans inside. The results are cut into this video for "Kiss You," a song from the group's 2017 record, Ashes/Axis, and the footage is a perfect illustration of our hesitation to make ourselves vulnerable.
The video moves from the mundane to the tender and intimate, probing the gap between what its subjects are communicating and what they really want. When each couple sits down in front of the unmanned camera, one person or the other has to take a risk. While some swerve and offer up a cheek or a grotesquely extended tongue, the voice singing over the track's lo-fi, Nintendo-like harpsichord is stirringly human: "While I think it through / maybe you'll kiss me?"
When somebody finally does take the leap, the video becomes a montage of intensely private moments. One person wipes away tears.
It's a cute gag and a sweet soundtrack to a love song, but the video also brilliantly reflects the plan that Cuddle Magic seems to have for its subtly studied chamber pop: Bring an elaborate machine to a simple human premise. Arrange, chop, delay and re-track. And somehow, amid all the noise and mechanics, capture a sliver of the universal.
Cuddle Magic is currently on tour in North America.