Will LCD Soundsystem Reinvent Music Videos with Virtual Reality?

The band released a "VR experience" for its new single "Tonite."

by Monica Hunter-Hart
Google and LCD Soundsystem

Music videos these days — except those produced by top celebrity artists — act mostly as noise in an endless stream of content that’s constantly produced online. But that could be changing: Electronic rock band LCD Soundsystem has become the latest artist to experiment with incorporating virtual reality into its videos. On Tuesday the group released a “VR experience” for its new single “Tonite,” which The New Yorker describes as a “a funny, self-referential dance-floor anthem about dance-floor anthems,” and it bodes of innovative things to come.

The video is called “Dance Tonite” and takes place inside a series of rooms containing cones and cylinders that dance around. The shapes mimic the dance moves of LCD Soundsystem fans, whose movements were captured with VR headsets and controllers. If viewers also have access to a room-scale VR set, they can join the party too: The shapes will also imitate their dancing. If you don’t own one, you can still interact with the video by clicking around to see different camera angles. Check it out for yourself here.

Getting into it.

YouTube user: lcdsoundsystem

The VR was developed by Google’s Data Arts Team, which a press release calls “a specialized group within Google exploring the ongoing dialogue between artists and emerging technologies,” as well as directors Jonathan Puckey and Moniker. The team used WebVR, an experimental technology that employs open source code and allows users to experience VR in a web browser so that they don’t need a headset.

“We ended up basing our choice of shapes on how much information they conveyed by rotation,” Puckey explained in an blog post about the making of the video. “An orb looks the same no matter how it is rotated, but a cone really points in the direction that it is looking and looks different from the front than the back.”

Part of the video.

Google and LCD Soundsystem

Frontrunner James Murphy, the consummate aging hipster, was initially skeptical about experimenting with VR: “I really enjoyed it. I didn’t expect to enjoy it. I thought, ‘This is not for me,’ and it was for me,” he says in a YouTube feature on the making of the video. “It’s sort of like going to the beach. If somebody says, like, ‘We’re going to the beach,’ it’s like, ‘I don’t wanna go to the beach.’ Then you go to the beach and you swim around and you hang out and have a day off and it feels kinda great.”

LCD Soundsystem isn’t the first artist to make a VR music video. Saint Motel did so with a similarly dance-oriented track “Move” in August 2016, as did Childish Gambino with December 2016’s “Me and Your Mama” and The Kills with February 2017’s “Whirling Eye.” But LCD Soundsystem is arguably the most well-known artist among them; the creation of “Dance Tonite” could signify that VR music videos are on the way to disrupting the mainstream music scene.

LCD Soundsystem’s new album American Dream — of which “Tonite” is the second single — will be released on September 1. Check out the feature on the making of “Dance Tonite” below.

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