At the tail end of 2019, electronic artist Leitvox (AKA Christian Cooley) locked himself away in his Wynwood-based studio for four months to finish his latest album, Under the Skin. While his past work involved substantial collaboration, including musical input from Ilan Rubin (Nine Inch Nails), Gavin Clark and James Griffith (UNKLE), Nina Miranda (Smoke City), and Ana Karla Escobar, this album is deeply personal.
And appropriately so: The project called for focus and isolation. And, says Leitvox, "Just as I finished the album, quarantine began."
Under the Skin drops today along with the final single "Blue Crest" and its corresponding music video. The physical release on vinyl is set for August, thanks to pandemic-related delays.
With four months of alone-time already under his belt, the COVID-19 outbreak was particularly ill-timed for Leitvox. Still, he decided to make the most of it. With an indefinite amount of time on his hands, he decided to work on visual accompaniments to every song on the album.
That's 65 minutes of visuals consisting of seven music videos.
"Without the quarantine, I may not have had the time to do the visual elements," he admits. "I think for many, the quarantine has allowed people to delve deeper into their artistic side."
Unlike the isolated effort in creating the album, the Miami-based, Mexican-born producer looked to collaborators to help stitch together a visual narrative. Closing out the hepatology, the video for "Blue Crest" depicts two ballet dancers performing to the track, itself a filmic, trance-influenced voyage that feels more like a movie score than a dance-music record.
The classical elements of the ten-minute song inspired Leitvox and his collaborators, directors James Ward (Nick Cave, UNKLE) and Cristian Proa, to incorporate ballet into the video. The use of dance is nothing new for Leitvox — he incorporated contemporary dance into videos for his last album, Moon — and its reprisal here creates a sense of continuity.
"I'm always thinking about the images when I'm composing, and tend to relate it to the human body," Leitvox explains.
Proa managed to film dancers Gaby Mesa and Fabian Morales on location in Miami, right before lockdown. Thanks to Ward's editing and special effects, the final product is minimalistic and elegant, reminiscent of an extended dance scene in a Walter Lang film.
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"Blue Crest," the album's third single, embraces the more theatrical elements of trance music, taking listeners on a multi-loop rollercoaster through different emotional states, creating a truly authentic sense of suspense.
"I'm strongly influenced by film scores, which I think is echoed in the song. Its composition tells a story," Leitvox says. "The black-and-white textures of the video bring this dramatic feel that I personally wanted to include as part of the concept of Under the Skin."
As for getting back to live performances and collaborating with fellow artists as he had been pre-coronavirus, Leitvox remains optimistic.
"I think quarantine has forced people to experiment," he says. "I think it's quite interesting that things are not the same right now, but I am confident things will get back to normal."