This week saw the release of the music video that accompanies ‘Shelter’, a song co-produced by electronic artists Porter Robinson and Madeon. The anime music video, produced by A-1 Pictures and written by Robinson tells the story of Rin, a seventeen year-old girl who lives alone in a computer simulation.
Despite being 13 years later, the ‘Shelter’ music video stirs memories of two French robots and an intergalactic pop band…
Chances are, if you’ve been on Twitter in the last couple of days and follow anyone even remotely interested in anime, this music video probably ended up on your timeline somehow.
Before I go any further, I feel like it might be important to note that watching the ‘Shelter’ music video was my first exposure to Porter Robinson’s music (although not the first time I’ve listened to Madeon).
Another point I want to make very clear early on is that no, I did not enjoy Shelter more than I enjoy Interstella 5555. I can’t really take an objective standpoint however, because Discovery is my second-favourite album of all time.
It’s also very hard and a little unfair to pit the two against each other, as both come from different periods in both music and animation, as well as the fact that Interstella is over an hour long, with ‘Shelter’ being just over six minutes.
Whereas Daft Punk’s 2001 vocoder and sample-laden masterpiece perfectly suited the late 90’s, Bebop-esque anime style, the same couldn’t really be said for their latest release Random Access Memories. It’s very hard for me to imagine any of the songs from RAM being accompanied by an anime music video, because the music just has a completely different feel that I don’t feel like would fit today’s modern style of anime.
However, I think that ‘Shelter’ is an almost perfect example of taking an idea from the past and bringing it into the future. Few styles of music could match A-1’s vibrant animation and visual design more than Robinson & Madeon’s brand of pulsing, almost fuzzy electronic house.
The art style of ‘Shelter’ Is, almost, literally dripping with a sharp beauty, with so many colours that cascade in and out of view that most of the time you aren’t even sure what part of the screen to look at, since it’s all such a joy to see. The visuals perfectly mimic the music it accompanies, as it ebbs and flows with a pulsing beat and a mixture of chopped-up and ethereal vocals.
Something I love about chopped-up vocals is that it’s something so close to being familiar, yet still so strange. As a listener, you find yourself grasping for recognisable words, like they’re just out of reach. It gives them this oxymoronic effect of being familiar, yet unfamiliar at the same time.
And they sound nice.
It’s honestly incredibly impressive how versatile this music video is and just how much you see in it’s relatively short six~ minute runtime.
There are very intimate shots that are used to establish Rin as a character and then there are these huge, beautiful landscape-establishing shots that really take advantage of the fact that Rin is able to create new environments at will.
It’s such a huge contrast to the shots where Rin is simply sitting in her bedroom, but it doesn’t feel forced or out of place in the slightest. Cute, endearing, ethereal: so many adjectives could be used to describe both the visuals and the music. It’s an enchanting combination that looks to tug at your heart strings and act as vanilla cheesecake for your eyes and ears.
As well as being nice to look at, the wide establishing shots also serve a purpose in the narrative, as they are used to emphasise Rin’s isolation. Despite being in her own personal paradise, you still feel her sense of loneliness. I think the best way to describe it would be to call the video dynamic in the way it handles Rin’s presence in her world, showing both her control over the environment, yet her insignificance in the vastness of it all.
Not only this, but the contrast between establishing and intimate shots is used to emphasise Rin’s relationship with her father in relation to the gravity of their planet’s dire situation, as a moon (or another planet) inches ever closer.
Another visual aspect that emphasises the other-worldly nature of Rin’s home is the strong contrast of colours in some shots. Whereas some of the environments are lush, grassy plains, there are these moments of surreal contrast where colours seem to stand out far beyond others, yet meld enough into the background in a way that they do not seem too abrasive.
To talk a little bit more about the music, I really love the use of a flanger effect on one of the synths during the chopped-up vocal passages, as it really brings a sense of transience to the music. It’s a perfect, audible representation of the temporary nature of Rin’s world, the idea that things must always shift, change and move on. The fact that things can change in this world makes it much more believable and less static.
The perfect counterpart to this kind of effect is the use of particle effects throughout the video:
From the de-materialisation of the environments, to the moments when Rin is literally glowing and the heartfelt tears that fall, the beautifully-executed particle effects breathe life into this world and give the animation the same great depth as the music.
The complete-ness of the whole thing is what makes ‘Shelter’ so enjoyable as a visual and aural experience. It’s perfectly self-contained, with a very clear message:
Losing what you love will hurt, but if you never forget, even if it’s the pain you never forget, you haven’t truly lost everything.
Is Shelter more polished than Interstella 5555? Of course it is, it was made in 2016. However, both visual styles fit the audio aesthetic of their music counterparts perfectly. They are both products of different time periods and styles of music, but I’ve no doubt that Robinson & Madeon owe a lot to Daft Punk.
I didn’t want this article to be a ‘Shelter better than Interstella 5555???’ click-bait piece, rather that it would be impossible for me to write about ‘Shelter’ without mentioning a project that clearly inspired it in some fashion.
Regardless of how ‘Shelter’ stacks up against Interstella 5555, I’ll be incredibly interested in any future animation-related work that Robinson or Madeon may undertake in the future. Also consider me a fan of both their music.
If you want to know when I write something new, follow me on Twitter: @jgoodchild94
NOTE: This is the first time I’ve written about music on this website, so I’m not sure how it’s gone. As a huge fan of both Interstella 5555 and Disney’s Fantasia, animation as a companion to music is something that has interested me for a long time.