I got an awful lot more than I bargained for when I dipped my toes into the strange waters of Los Angeles conceptual/performance artist and musician Lawrence Rothman. I was sent his stunning and disturbing video for “California Paranoia,” a song from his forthcoming debut album. The song is a breathtaking Gothic chamber music composition, and along with the melancholy piano, strings and Rothman’s somber singing, it Angel Olsen contributes eerily beautiful backing vocals. The video, a gorgeously filmed has something possibly to do with the dark subconscious, fatalism, artifice and illusion, love, madness, the Los Angeles underbelly, copious amounts of medication, dancing girls, mental illness, the search for salvation, a mad psychiatrist, a satanic ritual, and I won’t tell you how it ends but let’s just say it turns the sacrificial lamb metaphor on its head.
As magnificent as it is, don’t get too comfortable with this piece of music. Rothman’s mad psychologist, pill dispenser and Master of Ceremonies is but one of his alters, as he calls them. It’s not only his characters that change; it’s his music as well. “Oz Vs. Eden” is a slice of chaotic R&B electronica, with a vocal cameo by Charli XCX. In the video, directed by Floria Sigismondi, his alter ego is named Kevin and the scene plays out in a haunted house.
These doppelgangers and wild variations in musical styles might remind me of David Bowie, except for the fact that this guy makes The Thin White Duke (even with his Aleister Crowley obsession, cocaine-fueled fascist ambitions and bodily liquids stored in the fridge to ward off evil spirits) look like Mr. Rogers.
If you’d like to learn more about this fascinating artist and get a glimpse inside his mad scientist brain, read an interview he just did with The Beat. On his debut album, Rothman is collaborating with Justin Raisen, who previously worked with Sky Ferreira on Night Time, My Time and with Charli XCX on True Romance (and he’s in Raw Deal with Ariel Pink). The recording will feature special guests Kim Gordon, Ariel Pink, Charli XCX and no doubt a complete cast of alters, and it is due out early next year. In the meantime, don’t worry, it’ll be ok. Just surround yourself with white light.