“Hello dear viewers, welcome to our show Real Talk. My name is Samantha and we have a very emotional show today. We just learned that a local girl was hit by a car. Whoever did this horrible accident is being searched as we speak. Cindy... we miss you and on behalf of the Carmel Vista crew, we want to say thank you, to you and all of your family.”
The overcast and unsettling introduction from Samantha - a ghostly and stoic talk-show host - sets the scene for Kai Hugo’s (aka Palmbomen II) self-directed music video series, a four-part spectacle which accompanies his second full-length album ‘Memories of Cindy’ on Beats In Space.
Hugo holds the unique characteristic of taking complete creative control over both his sonic output and the music videos which accompany his sound - producing and directing an all encompassing aesthetic with an intimate and abstract narrative that is all his own.
A graduate of Red Bull Music Academy, the Netherland native moved to Los Angeles in 2014 to pursue his unique synth-based intuitions while also getting his fill of sunshine and "palmbomen" (which translates as palm trees in Dutch). It was around this time that Palmbomen II released his self-titled debut. The album is a celebrated, humid and lo-fi collection of tracks, each named after an obscure character from the long-running supernatural thriller series, The X Files.
It was in Los Angeles that Hugo stepped behind the camera for the first time to further develop the visual narrative that would accompany a handful of the characters he devised for his hazy breakthrough album. “The process of making these videos has also been the process of learning the medium of film in its entirety,” says Hugo. “Before that, I had a few bad experiences of people trying to create my music videos. Once I decided to do it myself, I found how amazing it was to have control over both my image and sound.” It is in this first video series that we are introduced to ‘Cindy Savalas’, a girl haunted by her assumed extraterrestrial origins.
Following the praise of his distinct directorial efforts, Hugo uses his latest album ‘Memories of Cindy’ as a vehicle to dive further into his surreal visual universe, starting in the fictional town of Carmel Vista, California. That’s where the television show Real Talk takes place - a tripped-out public access program in which Hugo himself discusses his latest album with the talk show’s absent and awkwardly robotic host Samantha, who appears distant and distraught following the news of Cindy’s untimely passing throughout the program.
“I like public access TV because it’s so loose and there is no pretentiousness attached to it. Sometimes, out of those quick, low-budget moments you see on public access, you find real art happening within. It’s often very captivating. By basing the public access TV show on the place where my past characters live, the visual world I’ve created becomes a little bit bigger.”
Much of Palmbomen’s four-part program is dominated by humorous and artful commercial breaks which give viewers an indirect look into the towns bizarre and unearthly disposition. The commercials - all of which were created by Hugo - use fragments of the album’s chimeric sound to advertise products and services such as friendship cultivation crystals, poodle shampoo, gothic cigarettes, UFO tours, funeral homes with free cake and much more.
“The commercials are kind of long and many of the songs are somewhat hidden, but I think that is what makes the series so interesting,” Hugo explains. “You create a visual world to compliment your music and it really sticks in the listener’s head. It helps people understand my music more as a whole.”
Beyond the commercial breaks, the Real Talk program shows Hugo explaining the process behind his album until Samantha either interrupts him or breaks off into a synth-soaked gaze, which tunes the artist’s dialogue out in its entirety. By the end of each episode, a woman by the name of Julia appears on screen to demonstrate what it might look like to dance to the spectral groove of Palmbomen II’s most club worthy tracks in a nightclub setting.
As the final segment of Palmbomen II’s ‘Memories of Cindy’ series drops today - premiered exclusively via Mixmag - we can expect to see more of Hugo’s Carmel Vista universe in the future. “I’m working on a bigger film that is going to bring this whole world back,” Hugo explains “These music videos were kind of an exploration into a place where a film could exist. You are seeing my research essentially.”
Also ahead, Palmbomen II plans to release a forthcoming album with his long-time friend and collaborator Betonkust via Dekmantel. The seminal label has also tapped Hugo to create new music videos which will take a step back from his sunny and phantasmal California setting.
Stream 'Memories Of Cindy' in full below.
Cameron is Mixmag's US Digital Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter here