At the time of me writing what is essentially my third music video review, the war between Russia and Ukraine has entered its second week. With Russian President Vladimir Putin intending to “continue (his) uncompromising fight” against Ukrainian armed forces, there’s no telling what the outcome of this unfortunate situation will be.
And it’s this currently-ongoing battle that serves as inspiration for a new track and supplementary music video from singer-songwriter/ experimental electronic music composer Marc Lowe. With “Nobody Wins”, he delivers both a single and an EP in the form of a 27-minute ambient, improvisational composition, originally intended to be an instrumental for another project and inspired by news footage involving this Russia-Ukraine war.
Its music video is made up of such footage, stylistically superimposed over Marc who’s shown sitting in front of a black cloth backdrop playing the synthesizer and guitar. Both the news footage and Marc’s scenes are slowed down, with the former moving at a snail’s pace and slightly altered to appear like phone-based video recordings. It’s unsettling enough to see shots of rockets hitting residential areas, citizens scampering for shelter, authorities trying to maintain order and even victims of the attacks in hospitals. But it’s the sluggish speed of these visuals which helps maintain a surreal, hypnotic vibe throughout the video’s runtime.
Marc’s visuals are equally unsettling, particularly the keying out of the black cloth and Marc’s shirt (which is also black), in addition to the slow pace of his video recording, though not as glacial in speed as the news footage. At times, he’s near-indiscernible, especially when footage featuring prominent whites and greys are used. However, in regard to the visual aesthetic of the video, it totally works! Yes, Marc is expressing his emotions to what’s being shown on-screen, but he lets the visuals and music speak for themselves.
Speaking of music, this is where “Nobody Wins” – the video and yes, the song as well – shines. Marc treats us to a sonic crystallization of the fear being felt within Ukraine and the concern being shared the world over. Over a seemingly endless, spacey, droning synth lead, he slowly adds these tense, discordant, unnatural sounds which either slither their way through your eardrums or blindside you like bombs being dropped.
Added to this despairing, nightmarish soundscape are two brief vocal passages; the first appearing after the 11:00 mark where Marc does roughly a minute’s worth of melancholic, train-of-thought singing. The latter shows up immediately after a disquieting final act consisting of skittering percussion and distorted strings. In this moment in the video, we see Marc on his guitar (melodies of which appear occasionally as short, disenchanted guitar strums throughout the track).
On the soundtrack of the video’s final moments, Marc delivers these haunting, dirge-like lyrics centered on the pain and suffering being felt in Ukraine, the lack of sympathy shown by Russian troops and a call to action to stop the war altogether. And in a rather insightful and memorable bit of editing, the video concludes with shots of Vladimir Putin himself and Marc faded completely out of the picture.
Whilst re-listening to this track and watching its video, my mind kept going back to the end credit sequence of Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam War masterpiece “Apocalypse Now” (both the text credit version and the one which featured footage of the decimation of the antagonist’s compound during a nocturnal air strike) and the bleak, spine-chilling ambient piece that played over it. And similar to that sequence, both visually and sonically, “Nobody Wins” brilliantly conveys the dread and tension of this current war. Yes, it’s uncomfortable to sit through, but it is arguably a bold, artistic anti-war statement that needed to be made and needs to be experienced. While we continue to keep our ears to the ground with regards to the Russia-Ukraine war, I strongly recommend taking the time to give “Nobody Wins” a listen and a watch. You won’t regret it.
“Nobody Wins (Pray for Ukraine)” is now available on YouTube, Spotify and Bandcamp.
For more music from Marc Lowe, visit www.marclowemusic.com