Only a minute goes by in Nicolas Jaar and Brian Jackson‘s newest video, entitled “11 Times,” and already its reality begins to fracture. Dipped in murky grain and pierced by the icicle synths courtesy of Jaar, those first scenes of black faces caught against the night play out like crinkled shards of bad memories. Beautiful bokeh globes meet sirens and we’re given names: Peter Foreman, Khalid Mils and more–in all 11 men whose real lives have been punctured by police brutality in New York City. More minutes go by, and the point becomes performed: this is how distorted life can look after the law has pummeled your spirit.
Directed by Brooklyn artist Samantha Casolari, “11 Times” is without a doubt one of the most powerful music videos of the young new year. Casolari’s lens floats almost ghost-like from subject to subject, and as Jaar-Jackson’s meandering soul keyboard and delayed vocals intensify the entire piece pushes toward a fearsome edge. And on the other side of that edge, of all things, is a groove. Jaar lets handclaps and roving bass ease the tension a little bit, and somehow head-nodding along to a “Hands Up” interlude becomes an act of affirmation and solidarity.
“11 Times” gets its title from the 11 times that Eric Garner called out “I can’t breathe” as he was strangled by an NYPD officer on Staten Island last summer. And so this new video is one of the strongest showings of of the #BlackLivesMatter movement reaching music beyond reactionary raps and R&B anthems. Here, glimmering beneath both luscious groove and immersive visuals is that same cry of protest that sent thousands into the streets around the nation. Casolari, Jaar, Jackson and the entire crew involved in “11 Times” have made something bold and timeless. Watch it below, and after it’s finished, read the stories of each man featured at Nowness.