PREMIERE: Walktell - Nonsense

Laura Kerry

Jake Wachtel’s home, he says, is The Open Road. In this spirit, he has adopted the word “walk” in his stage name and many of the sounds he has encountered on his travels into his music. As Walktell, the artist plays kaleidoscopic psych pop that incorporates a wide array of instruments familiar and unfamiliar to most in a Western audience: ukulele, mandolin, sarangi, hulusi, tro, sueng, baglamas, and gunbri, to name a few.

If that list of instruments has left you feeling a little disoriented, you’re now in the right frame of mind to watch Walktell’s new video for his song “Nonsense.” Written in Mumbai and shot in Guangzhou, China, it illustrates the feeling of trying to process the volume of people in the foreign cities around him. Made up of one continuous, lo-fi shot, the video places the viewer in the perspective of the artist as he walks through the masses of commuters in the 14-million-person city. Wachtel’s face dips in and out of the frame, singing listlessly as forges on; the camera pans dizzyingly; and unsuspecting strangers dodge the camera and the tall, curly-haired American man headed their way.

Also disorienting is the Walktell’s version of a lyric video. Though it includes all the lyrics in the right order and timing, the words do more to confuse than guide. This partially results from the words themselves, whose chorus—”Is there any value to nonsense / I couldn't float a flock of fidgeting fibers / But I'll try to assign meaning once again”—might be the most comprehensible string in a song that take great pleasure in playing with the sounds of syllables (“irascible bullies bellowing,” “I can’t keep my cortex courting lies”). The text itself doesn’t help, though; highly stylized in translucent neon, its Ts curl into Bs in lines that dart out of order across the screen. A song about the futility of discovering meaning, “Nonsense” and its video are delightfully bewildering. As Walktell would probably agree, though, there’s joy in the journey.