Safy Etiel (aka Safy SNIPER)
Before The Fall last night, a laptop artist came on to the stage at the Powerstation for what I expected would be oh-so-much WinAmp DJ’ing ahead of the show proper. Instead, using live manipulation via his computer, Israeli-born, Berlin-based Safy SNIPER unleashed a series of phenomenal, warped, skewed clips of familiar pop culture icons which he could pause, stagger, loop and reverse at will.
Etiel/SNIPER has been doing this for a couple of tours with The Fall now, though it took some detective work to find out who he actually was (I think he prefers it that way). The effect was pretty incredible. The protracted, bombastic start of a Black Sabbath performance is extended into an excruciating, deafening and torturous indulgence - a call-and-response between virtuoso vocal and guitar efforts abstracted into petty and vain little slivers. ‘Poker Face’, ‘Alejandro’, and ‘Like A Virgin’s respective clips jolt on and off, faster and faster, eventually reaching a jarring crescendo that maximises the sexual tension and violence behind the videos. Oprah is folded into a perpetually astonished Tourettes’s stutter. Perhaps most powerfully, he uses a clip of Elvis performing ‘Unchained Melody’ on 21 June 1977. Visibly emotional and at death’s door, SNIPER’s treatment of the singer is at once disturbing and touching. His edits create pauses and lapses where Presley freezes in bewilderment and looks up to his assistant - he strains and prolongs his most powerful notes like a mortal rattle. The clip cuts out on his endless wail, almost impossibly loud.
Commentators have acclaimed Etiel’s work as a neat fit for The Fall, citing its tendency to stretch one moment from the past and render it grotesque and inexplicable. While there’s definitely elements of that, I’d argue the area where he work succeeds most is a bleakly comic reverence and understanding of the source material. Rather than being inexplicable or unrecognizable, it brings the unspoken in all these clips to the surface in a simple, brutal way.
Interview with Etiel, and a couple of unsettling clips of his other works here. The clip below from a 2006 show was the best I could find from the live pre-Fall sets - but he seems to be considerably more dynamic now, and I suspect you’ve really gotta be there.