Pushing Your Perception to Its Limits: About Ok Go

11 March 2019 Comments Off on Pushing Your Perception to Its Limits: About Ok Go

BY KAĞAN ÖZDEMİR (MBG/IV) kagan.ozdemir@ug.bilkent.edu.tr

Ever since I’ve known myself, I’ve been interested in everything that somewhat manipulates or messes around with our perception. Everyone will probably have realized that music alters our mental functions, making us perceive situations and experience emotions differently. To demonstrate this to yourself, watch a scene from a TV series with the soundtrack, and then watch the same scene again without it. The difference should be clear. It’s also worth noting that the relationship between music and visuals is reciprocal: i.e., visuals affect how we perceive music, too. This is why all those mind-altering music videos – such as those of Tame Impala – and expensive light experiments – such as those we see in Pink Floyd or Flaming Lips shows – are created, right? Well, those bands are perhaps the ones most commonly mentioned when the discussion is about visuals. But I do have another amazing one to append to this list: Ok Go. At first glance, without seeing their music videos, you might think they’re just another excellent alternative rock band, but every I time I watch a video by this band from an artist’s perspective, it leaves me asking the same question: How could these guys manage to synchronize these events to the progression of this music? This achievement alone makes them one of the greatest bands ever to have existed in this world, and maybe I can persuade you to think the same.

Now that I’m finished with my glorification of Ok Go, I can proceed with recommended songs and, in this special case, recommended music videos. So this time there will be two lists, again in no particular order of preference. Let’s start with the music videos:

  1. Obsession: This video, according to itself, incorporates the use of over 560 printers. Each of them prints a different portion of the background in perfect synchronization with the music. Near the end of the video they print 3D objects, with band members floating between them; it seems as if those scenes really are there in the background.
  2. Writing’s on the Wall: This video definitely manipulates your depth perception. Throughout it, the band uses a mirror to make you see two different faces on the same body, make you see cubes that aren’t even there, make someone climb off ladders that don’t even exist, and make many other things happen that I can’t even describe here. Definitely a “must-experience” video.
  3. The One Moment: This video actually lasts around five seconds. However, it’s then slowed down and synchronized to the rhythm, with the lead singer singing alongside the song. Even when you think you’ve gotten used to it, you’ll be amazed each time at how they managed to make it.
  4. This Too Shall Pass: This song has two different and equally great music videos. One is done with lots of people and an orchestra; the other one demonstrates some kind of machine with many objects, one after another, triggering the actions of those that come after them. I’d recommend watching both.
  5. WTF?: I can only explain this video by saying that it has come from the fourth dimension, where you can see sideways in time. The impression it gives is like some kind of glitch happening in time. In addition to that, the fact that the song is in 5/4 time gives it a very incomplete, unstable feeling.

As for the music itself, I have the following choices:

  1. All Is Not Lost: This is my favorite Ok Go song, as it perfectly demonstrates why it was given that title. I imagine it to be a wave oscillating between hopeful and depressed, and, as the guitar solo breaks in, you’re free to feel either way, depending on your mood.
  2. Back From Kathmandu: I don’t know why, but this song reminds me of late ’90s–early 2000s Radiohead (particularly the “Bends” album). For those who like that era of Radiohead and who also don’t feel depressive, I would definitely recommend this.
  3. The Great Fire: This is possibly the most depressive song by Ok Go, as far as my knowledge goes. In concordance with its title, it makes you feel like as if you’re experiencing a disaster firsthand but aren’t able to prevent it and so have to just accept its outcome.
  4. Needing/Getting: This song is played in many different ways by Ok Go, one version being the album recording, one a version that they’ve done live with smartphones, and the other having been recorded in a car as it slams into various musical instruments! The last version has a video and is a must-see; I definitely recommend watching it.
  5. The House Wins: This song touches my shoegaze vein with its layered structure. I would definitely recommend it to noise pop fans, even though it might not be considered a song from that genre.

To make a long story short, there seems to be a link between our cognition of music and visual art. Ok Go’s approach to art is outstanding in that it is quite deliberately crafted, and beautifully manipulates how we perceive their art. My advice here for musical artists is, experiment with visuals and try to elevate your art to a different level.