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Watch: Philip B. Price's New Music Video Is A Surreal Trip Into A Mental Breakdown

Philip B. Price (Courtesy)
Philip B. Price (Courtesy)
This article is more than 1 year old.

This is an exclusive video premiere, part of The ARTery's effort to highlight New England musicians.



The musician Philip B. Price found himself in freefall when the pandemic shut everything down last year. He struggled to write songs, mired in anxiety and dread.

“I’ve always been an anxious person,” Price says. “So [the pandemic] really, really just opened the floodgates on anxiety and depression.”

Price’s album “Oceans Hiding In Oceans,” which came out in February this year, is, in many ways, a classic quarantine project. It explores feelings of anxiety and isolation. Price, who is best known as the frontman for the Northampton chamber-pop band Winterpills, recorded it in his little home studio, playing all the instruments himself.

“Oceans Hiding In Oceans” also stands as (spoiler alert) evidence that Price’s deadly bout of writer’s block didn’t last.

He partly attributes his productivity to his decision to sit down every day and work on new material, whether he felt inspired to or not. “I got very regimented,” he says. “It just felt good to completely lose myself in the process, as opposed to battling it.”

“On The Edge Of Finding Out” is one of the results of Price’s newfound focus. The song begins in gentle contemplation, anchored by a hypnotic acoustic guitar riff and a whimsical piano line. Then the drums kick in, an engine of urgency in a dreamy landscape. Impressionistic lyrics hint at loss and abandonment. “We were left alone/ On the edge of finding out,” Price croons in an Elliott Smith whisper, voice suffused with regret.

The music video was Price’s first foray into animation. He based the concept around an idea he had of “animating a Mark Rothko painting.” Rothko-esque purples and blues form a two-toned landscape. Stock animations — a galaxy, a waterfall, bodies falling from the sky — bloom in and out of being at the horizon, a vista that becomes more and more surreal.

When he wrote the songs on “Oceans Hiding In Oceans,” Price didn’t plan to make an album. He wasn’t even sure what would become of the songs. But that mindset liberated him. He didn’t worry about seeming derivative, freely borrowing ideas from Dolly Parton, John Lennon, Brian Eno and the Magnetic Fields. He didn’t allow himself to become too precious or perfectionistic about the end product. “I have a tendency to overwork things,” Price says. “But for this particular project, I found myself letting go of it.”

Nor did he restrain himself. “I was trying to have more fun,” Price says. He used all the technology at his disposal, and incorporated all the musical parts that popped into his brain: weird synth riffs, explosive breakdowns, an unexpected flute. Each song on “Ocean Hiding In Oceans” represents a full commitment to concept, a universe unto itself. The results are playful, catchy, expansive.

In a way, writing “Oceans Hiding In Oceans” was therapeutic, Price says. Not just because he was able to express his fears and doubts, but because he was able to lose himself in the creative process in a time of dire need.

“That moment of connecting outside yourself feels good,” Price says of songwriting. “And then if you're lucky, the piece of art keeps living and you keep working on it, and then you get to be lost in it and go outside yourself. And you get some relief from the pain you might be in.”

Related:

Amelia Mason Twitter Arts And Culture Reporter
Amelia Mason is an arts and culture reporter and critic for WBUR.

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