Mobley Readies Enthralling Multimedia Pandemic Collaboration A Home Unfamiliar
Collaborative visual album (dis)connects 30 musicians & filmmakers
By Kevin Curtin,
9:00AM, Mon. Jul. 13, 2020
There’s a vintage game called Exquisite Corpse, in which participants collectively write a sentence, word by word, taking turns. The players, however, can only see the word written immediately beforehand and the rest are folded out of sight.
You might end up with a sentence like, “The obese bus driver drunkenly danced the wiggly nightcrawler.”
There’s also the pictorial version where you fold a piece of paper into quarters and four gamers create a drawing in sequence. Since a person can only glimpse a couple centimeters of their predecessor’s illustration for linear continuity, they end up with a monster head atop a guitar transitioning into women’s legs that become tree roots on the bottom.
Austin pop maven Mobley came up with the novel concept to execute the same vision with recorded music and original video clips. The large scale orchestration enlists 15 musical artists and another 15 filmmakers to create conjoining works around single prompt: “A Home Unfamiliar.” Creation occurred in April while Austin found itself in full COVID-19 lockdown.
“I wanted to bring a bunch of people together who’d ordinarily be very busy and unable to work with each other,” says the project organizer. “All of sudden, we all had this huge opening in our schedule.”
The 30 collaborators whose work makes up A Home Unfamiliar were completely anonymous to one another. A musician would receive an email from Mobley at midnight giving them a three-word-prompt, a 48-hour deadline, and the final 10 seconds of the piece that slotted in before theirs. As he collected the songs, he’d send them untitled to a director, who’d likewise have two days to craft a music video.
“I was the hub of the wheel and everybody else was spokes,” says the conceptualist born Anthony Watkins II.
The astonishing outcome proved extremely watchable. The fast-moving, 25-minute work feels like both an art film and an Austin music compilation. Challenging methods delivered inspired results.
Bastrop’s Deezie Brown contributes one of the most compelling segments, rapping about the mental perspectives one carries with themselves to get through each day as accompanied by lo-fi scenic cinematography from Zach Morrison and Mackenzie McMahon. Bright Light Social Hour’s section imbues a spacey rock breakdown alongside the chant “I don’t take any responsibility” over collage work from Sarah Jones. Honey Son’s Mars Wright sings, “There’s a plague outside your door that won’t go away,” an uptempo alt-R&B deluge complimented by lyrically focused animation of Jacob Weber.
Over the watery petri-dish visuals of Gustavo Bernal, Sir Woman’s Kelsey Wilson sings, “’Cuz your house ain’t your only home and your mind gotta way to go.”
Mobley delayed a planned June release of A Home Unfamiliar – which fundraises for the Central Texas Food Bank and Diversity Awareness and Wellness in Action (DAWA), a nonprofit founded by Jonathan "Chaka" Mahone to provide emergency financial assistance to people of color working as artists, social workers, teachers, social workers, and healing practitioners – to not distract from protests against racially motivated police brutality. He believes the ideas exchanged through the visual album will resonate beyond the pandemic lifespan.
“While the themes discussed in this collective art were directly inspired by the particular experience of social distancing, they were there before it started and they’ll be there after it goes away,” he notes. “They just revealed themselves in a stark way because we had months to sit home and look in the mirror.”
A Home Unfamiliar, which also includes contributions form Spoon drummer Jim Eno, Shakey Graves, Walker Lukens, Jackie Venson, and Sabrina Ellis of A Giant Dog, Sweet Spirit, and Heart Bones will be available to rent via Alamo Drafthouse’s On Demand platform on Friday, July 17.
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Mobley, A Home Unfamiliar, Alamo Drafthouse, Bright Light Social Hour, Sarah Jones, Sabrina Ellis, Jackie Venson, Shakey Graves, Jim Eno, Deezie Brown, Mars Wright, Sir Woman, Kelsey Wilson, Gustavo Bernal, Honey Son, Jacob Weber