Somewhere along our hyper-stimulating social media strewn path, our concentration spans have been so diminished and fractured that anything much longer than the length of a Vine feels supremely protracted. Eight minutes and thirty seconds may seem like a superhuman undertaking if you struggle to focus for much longer than six seconds, but trust me – unless you’re using your phone to watch Brunfelsia, put it down and give the latest video from Artefact the undivided attention it deserves.
Artefact have created something truly epic with Brunfelsia – a magical song with an accompanying video that is in a class of its own.
Every slither of music Artefact produces has been carefully considered, resulting the kind of heavily textured post-pop that’s methodical in its stitching. The band is comprised of Chrissy and Jim Flanagan, whose shared surname is coincidental rather than familial, and Brunfelsia is the second single taken from their debut album, No Safe Place, which was self-released in 2015 and is set for re-release through Lazy Thinking Records later this year. During their first live show, they played their album sequentially and in its entirely, which may give you a nugget of insight into how precise its composition was – some tracks took as long as nine months to structurally perfect.
Artefact’s debut video, What I Want, was a 3D-animated wonder-scape that pulled in Best Animation prize at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival. Not one to mess with the winning formula of its predecessor, Brunfelsia is similarly crafted, worked on by animators in a quartet of continents who boast Tame Impala videos and the Avengers movies in their resume, and overseen by the production savvy of jazz musician Stu Hunter. And in a style befitting modern technology, the project was composed entirely through messages, never vocally or in person.
Brunfelsia takes its name from a five-petaled nightshade that grows in woodland, commonly found around the Sydney neighbourhood where Jim grew up. And it’s the plant’s common name, ‘Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow’, that inspired the song’s bittersweet tale of adventure, friendship and the exploration of another world.
“There’s a nice, sad inevitability about the Brunfelsia life cycle, and a beauty and simplicity that we tried to replicate in the arrangement,” explains Jim, “It’s a collection of contradictory emotions, which works for us as we don’t feel that music should tell its listeners how to think or feel.”
Feel is right. Artefact is multi-instrumental – think bass, electronics, guitar, keyboards, piano, vocals and a whole host of percussion instruments, and throughout Brunfelsia, these are collaged together to create a textural, dreamy soundscape. There are teasing moments of explorative piano, gentle pats of cymbal, tripping drumming bursts, sounds that putter like helicopter blades, expand and contract, all building up complex, warm layers. It’s ethereal, rich and oftentimes astonishing. The vocals aren’t the focal point, but add richness and sincerity, reaching right in to squeeze the pit of your stomach in wonder.
There’s nostalgic wonder too at the planet Brunfelsia’s characters are exploring – this magical, lush, brilliant landscape that’s all the colourful, creative imaginings you ever had as a kid. The characters’ spaceship weaves its way elegantly through the reddish, purpling landscape to land on this unknown, discarded planet – mountains, trees and evidence of a collapsed civilisation rise up, and the two friends set off to explore under a spherical yellow sun, edging over cobbled bridges overtaken by vegetation. And they find delight in it – this world half-eaten by flora, watching plants grow and petals fall amongst the waste of a dead society. There’s danger, sure, but friendship and bravery too. The result is beautifully eerie, and worth every demi-second of your time.