During the synth intro, you see five sets of arms wiggle listlessly. When the beat kicks in, they pump with a bit more rhythm. But the faceless performers aren’t dancing–well, at least not of their own volition. Instead, they’re serving as a human visualizer, shocked into action (literally) by carefully placed electrodes. It’s a music video that will definitely make you wince, but not because of how bad it is.
The song is “Straight&Arrow,” by the New York-based musician Falty DL, and the mad genius behind the clip is Daito Manabe, a Tokyo-based artist. Even if you don’t recognize the name, you may remember his face–Manabe posted a video testing some of his electric stimulation systems in 2008, which has since garnered over 1.5 million views. In that clip, the bespectacled Manabe–his temples, cheeks, and nose crudely outfitted with tape and wires–heaves a heavy sigh, presses play, and spends the next two and a half minutes flinching, blinking, and cringing to the beat. It’s amazing and stomach-turning in equal parts.
The latest effort applies the same techniques on a bigger (and, mercifully, more anonymous) scale. For the video, more than 40 different setups shocked participants’ arms, hands, and fingers to the tune. And it’s not just random movement; the action truly is a visualization of what you’re hearing. In the clip, hands steadily pulse to the percussion, while fingers wiggle expressively along with the vocal melody. Manabe told me he had the general concept down from tests on his own body but conceded that controlling fingers and arms was a bit different. “Need to do more tests,” he added cryptically.
The artist also explained how he had to hold an audition to find the video’s stars, because some individuals don’t respond to the electric stimulation quite as impressively as others. And for his part, the man had a vision: He told me he had certain shots in mind from the start, like the overhead view of the arms on the table, and he instructed the director, Kazuaki Seki, with much of the photography.
“Yes, it hurts,” he says, though he didn’t elaborate on quite how much. I would assume it’s more of a prank-handshake-zapper sensation than full-on Milgram Experiment-level torture, but who knows. I think, in the end, I’m just glad Manabe’s work ended up being paired with FaltyDL’s relatively laid-back track. You don’t want to be hooked up to any electrodes when the dubstep starts a-womping.
[Hat tip: Designboom]