The Friday Five inbox (submit by shooting a message to fridayfive [at] mpr.org) fills up with an eclectic mix of music videos each week. Sometimes longstanding local favorites, sometimes brand new DIY projects, and this week, a particularly mysterious artist performing under the moniker 85918 who shared an energetic, psychedelic experience for his latest single “Albatross” that demanded a closer look.
In some projects, social distancing and pandemic conditions have acted as obstacle in the creation of the video, but for director Jeff Sherman and 85918 these restrictions also acted as a means to create a timely reflection of the world the music video for “Albatross” was made in.
“Really the whole album is a creation of this strange time we’re living in. The first single before ‘Albatross’ was literally titled, ‘Mr. 4inteen’ and he wanted to be sure the video spoke to the realities and limitations of this period,” Sherman wrote in an e-mail exchange.
The funky visuals evoke a nostalgic response which creates an interesting dynamic with the clearly contemporary elements like the backup dancers performing in masks. This juxtaposition of the old and new set to timeless Minneapolis funk was born of a collaboration that initiated through an encounter at – of course – Paisley Park.
“I received an unexpected invite online to meet 85918 and a few others doing a little livestream dance break outside Paisley Park at midnight September 18th when he officially released the album For You,” Sherman wrote.
Regarding his relationship with Prince’s music, 85918 simply wrote, “without writing a book, I will simply answer DREAMS, for now,” in an e-mail.
There are moments where the video fixates on the interactions of its limited characters and its easy to fill in the scene of a larger party outside of the frame. These vignettes were created with the limitations of people and locations available for the director. Sherman took on all the production roles for filming to minimize contact and limited the roles in the music video to just three characters.
“The couple background extras at one point were just the studio liaison and BTS photographer conscripted into the scene,” Sherman wrote, “the only other two people in the building.”
All the filming of the video was done at Nanotako studios in North Minneapolis, using the space’s eclectic nature to provide an experience that doesn’t feel limited to just one location. Between the strategic choices in casting and creativity in location, the “Albatross” music video is a perfect example of artists working within limitations to create work that doesn’t try to separate itself from the world it was made in, but still speaks to a sort of intimacy that can feel faraway after months of physical distancing.
The video’s spacey, hard-to-pin-down visuals are mirrored in the mystery of the artist 85918 himself. Even his website offers little hit at his past or background, outside of his photography and links to listen to the new album, For You.
“I do consider myself, in part, a multimedia artist. I express myself through music, film making, photography and painting,” 85918 wrote.
“I have been making music for a while now,” he continued, “but took a break from it when I moved to Minneapolis, following my walk from New York to California, to pursue a formal education at the Art Institute, AI. After that experience I changed, but I did develop a love for that artistic expression while living in New York City.”
As for the mysterious name, the artist leaves it up for interpretation but hints at a sort of code. “85918 (pronounced eight five nine eighteen) is of the alphabetical order,” he wrote. “A time code, if you will. Once you break the code you will have a better understanding.”