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Dirty Projectors’ new music video is a gorgeous, animated ode to nature

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The message of isolation and starting over hits harder in pandemic

For its newest EP, indie rock band Dirty Projectors turned to the animation outfit Encyclopedia Pictura to render a gorgeous music video with a heavy environmental theme. The band’s latest project is a series of five EPs (logically dubbed 5EPs) released throughout 2020. The latest one, entitled Earth Crisis, which focuses on a “dystopian ecocide,” something that’s only become more painfully pertinent as the year has progressed.

The animated short tells the story of a woman in an isolated tundra landscape. Along with her giant, floofy pup, she treks across the snow-covered hills, planting seeds. The hope to spread natural beauty across the land doesn’t go as planned. Encyclopedia Pictura gives the short a rich texture, breathing life into the animated wilderness.

Bandleader Dave Longstreth tells Polygon that the environmental theme came as he wrote the songs. All the tracks on the Earth Crisis EP came from old recordings, pieces of a “lost album” that Longstreth says he never finished.

“I was thinking about the past and pushing myself toward a new future: not seasonal exactly, but definitely cyclical,” he says. “The theme of the environment came from the metaphor of this process: recycling, mulching, letting old things fall away, lose their original shape and purpose, become fragmentary and without memory — and, maybe, finally, become the nourishing stuff that brings new life.”

The video’s writer and director, Isaiah Saxon, says the specific story of the film sparked in the first moments of pandemic isolation.

“I wrote this story just as the pandemic began, in the first week of quarantine. I lost my dad a few months before, so I had a growing sense that the world was crumbling and no longer supportive of my hopes and dreams,” he tells Polygon in an email. “When Dave [Longstreth] sent me this wonderful piece of music, it opened the floodgates to what I needed to express — feelings of grief, environmental collapse, and a doubling down on the perseverance to help life succeed in the face of so much death.”

The film is full of panoramic landscapes, which Saxon says was inspired by landscape painters Charles Burchfield, A.J. Casson, and Arkhip Kuindzhi. But the small details — the clothing, the ski tracks, the flowing grass — took the longest to get just right. But coupled with the distinct physicality of Anya, the old woman, and her large dog (Saxon says they studied the movements of Alaskan malamutes to get the interactions with the snow just right) the animation creates the sense of a tangible world.

One of the striking moments comes right after Anya loses the dog, retreating to her small home, where she lies alone in the dark. Compared to the sweeping landscapes earlier, the juxtaposition is striking — and very intentionally reflects current state of the world.

“In the pandemic, our houses have become both refuges and stockades. We cocoon in them, nurse our wounds in them, hide in them, and also feel trapped in them,” says Saxon. “After months inside, if we’re lucky enough to finally see the natural environment, even in a brief little glimpse, it feels overwhelmingly alive. Our eyes are newly open to truly seeing the world.”

The Earth Crisis EP is available on Spotify, Apple Music, and Deezer. The entire 20-song 5EPs collection arrives on Nov. 20.