Today, SPIN premiered the new video for “252,” the latest single from Gem Club’s spare, haunting full-length debut, Breakers. The clip, directed by New York-based filmmaker Matthew Salton, ably captures the devestating, vulnerable beauty of Christopher Barnes, Kristen Drymala, and Ieva Berberian’s music. Melancholic, disturbing, and wholly appropriate for this sinister holiday, Salton’s video gives “252” the big-screen, high-definition treatment that it richly deserves, expertly underscoring Breakers’ palpable cinematic qualities. In the tradition of cartoonist Charles Burns (or “body horror” master David Cronenberg), “252” features a cast of attractive young people succumbing to corporeal tragedies–falling into seizures, weeping, and leaking mysterious filth from their bodies. It’s a dark ride, but also one of the most beautiful and unforgettable music videos you’re likely to see all year.
Glink! A rare stone dropped in the ocean. It sinks away from the light, and its gleam begins to wane, it darkens against the depth. Sinking into vastness, it looks almost like outer space, it could be floating, to the ocean’s ceiling floor. Here, there is no rising, there is no sinking, they are the same, growing and dying look identical.
Gem Club exists in this space. They float up to floors and live until the day they’re born. Gem Club is music, made by Christopher Barnes and his collaborators, cellist Kristen Drymala, and vocalist Ieva Berberian. Currently, they live in Massachusetts.
Following their self-released six-song EP, Acid and Everything, Gem Club have made Breakers, a debut full-length released through Hardly Art. If the album were a place, it would be home, strewn remnants of a party. If it were a color, it would be deep, rich, and full. If it were a glance, most definitely goodbye.
Breakers is like a story that finds myth in the mundane. Like finding a tape, under a tree, before it’s about to rain. The tape is marked with a muddied label: “STYX (the river, not the band)” and when it plays, the piano seems to whisper, to speak, to cry. No matter how low the volume is set, it plays loud. It rings like church bells, it sings like angels, it hums like heaven, and it’s the beginning of a journey, in water.
Breakers seems to wander, rowed slowly on a passage, secreting a message it only half-understands. Amidst the fog, however, the dim lanterns, and the specters on the banks, Gem Club maintains a clear vision, a clear voice, protective of its precious charge. Held crooked under its arm is a record of the kind of expression that can only ever be mostly understood, the way that hearts speak in codes unknown.
Part sadness, part elegy, part smiling kiss, the truth is delivered sparingly, in notes written and played with great love. Scenes of loss and hope, of coming together and coming apart, play themselves out on shore, while slowly, like the long, haunted stroke of a cello, the boat moves on. Perhaps actual memories, perhaps places unknown, still the message, written on dark paper, in light greys and whites, is safe.
Gem Club are a special find, a sparkling rarity. Breakers is deep and wide, and quickly robs you of the ability to tell up from down. Breakers is many kinds of breakers, like what breaks the tide, what breaks the wind, and what breaks the heart.
11/02 Boston, MA PA’s Lounge
11/17 Cambridge, MA TT The Bears +
# – w/ Tiger Saw
+ – w/ Youth Lagoon and Young Magic
Street date: Sept. 27, 2011
4. Red Arrow (John)
5. I Heard the Party
6. Black Ships
9. In Wavelengths