Video premiere: EMAEL, ‘Three60’

EMAEL (Photo by Ries Chirrick)

EMAEL’s avant-garde chamber-pop was otherworldly long before today’s release of the video for “Three60,” a boldly cinematic work rooted in the mythology of Sisyphus. In a manner of speaking, director Seejon Thomas gives the song legs, crafting a three-minute sci-fi parable set in a desert landscape as engrossing as the Los Angeles quintet’s shape-shifting soundscapes.

“Three60” is the title track to the band’s sophomore album, the follow-up to 2018’s “Glasswork” and due later this year. EMAEL (rendered “EMÆL” and pronounced “E-my-el”) have made their mark with a heady mix of organic and electronic instrumentation, marrying the classical and pop worlds.

The project is the brainchild of classically trained cellist Emmanuel Ventura-Cruess, who debuted the project in 2015 with the “Venym” EP. Ventura-Cruess eventually teamed up with Dutch producer-composer-drummer Joris Hoogsteder, who was key in making “Glasswork.” The lineup is now rounded out by guitarist Michael Womack, bassist Anthony Beville and vocalist Alyssa Cantal (who along with Ventura-Cruess stars in the video).

“‘Three60’ started with a guitar riff I was noodling around with for a couple years and the vocal chant melody,” Ventura-Cruess says of the song. “I remember coming up with it after sunset on a blanket at the beach. One day I sat down to record it, and from that point forward it was produced almost entirely by myself in my bedroom studio. The drums and bass were programmed on my pocket synthesizer OP1, which is why they sound so rinky-dink even though we layered in a significant amount of live drums.

“That’s always a goal of EMÆL — blending the organic with the synthetic, merging the worlds. Maybe it’s because I grew up playing cello in the classical world all the way through college. Always inspired by bands like Portishead, Massive Attack, Radiohead, Son Lux for their ability to not only write amazing songs but their masterful ability to blend these organic/synthetic worlds.”

The album was produced by Hoogsteder and Ventura-Cruess. The video and its amorphous aliens, the frontman says, “play on ideas of the story of Sisyphus and how knowledge interacts with personal happiness and self-discovery.” The tale of the Greek god was a theme on EMAEL’s 2018 album as well — “Three60” is but one sign that the band is still pushing.

||| Watch: The video for “Three60”