Despite the pixel- and sample-perfect capabilities of our digital age, imperfections imbued by the analog audio and video tech of bygone eras never cease to captivate the hearts and minds of artists. Though emulations and filters producing analog-like results are a dime a dozen and have become well-loved tools of musicians and filmmakers alike, earth-jazz alchemists Jay Si Proof chose to wrestle with the challenge, limitations and expense that accompany real Super 8 film with their new video for “Our Lament.” The result is a beautiful, smeared, grainy and saturated spectacle that—much like their music—feels authentically vintage and utterly human. And it’s funny too.
Filmed at the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, “Our Lament” opens with spaghetti western flair and flourish. The location and Super 8 grit is a perfect complement to Jeff Chilton’s plaintive trombone, Keith Cheek’s guttural saxophone and Lucas James’ bombastic yet groovy '70s-inspired drumming.
An obliquely conceptual narrative thread casts the band members into recognizable character archetypes. We follow Chilton as he wanders the desert seemingly on a quest for meaning, guided alternately by the spiritual Cheek as well as a villainous, cigar-munching James. On his path, Chilton encounters black-and-white framed photos of urban decadence and decay, which stand out oddly when juxtaposed against the scenery of sagebrush and desolate painted hills. One photo especially—a bus stop reading “find your happy place”—feels like a mockery of modern civilization in this context. Chilton systematically destroys them.
While the acting is delivered with a self-aware wink and a smile, the camp is fitting for the era being emulated, contrasting well against the dark and urgent tone of the music. On first watch, the video is quite entertaining for its style and humor alone, yet for the scrutinizing observer, the symbolic and spiritual undertones almost immediately beg a second viewing. I found myself pausing the video multiple times to get better views of the photos being presented, trying to grasp at the threads of meaning behind them.
But “Our Lament” doesn’t hit you over the head with its concept. Like the grainy and motion-blurred footage itself, I was resigned to draw my own conclusions about what I had seen and heard. It’s an approach that wouldn’t have worked nearly as well without the obscuring character of authentic analog Super 8. Props to Jay Si Proof and to director Dan Caplan for their execution and commitment to the medium.