A local songwriter/producer who records and performs as Atomic Houdini, Chelan Riebe recently wrapped up his multimedia project Dandelion Fireworks with a cinematic music video for "People Don’t Say."
The intense video for the synth-pop tune finds the singer wandering through a dense forest. It was shot during the fall of 2020 and was produced and edited by Akron-based Hartmanic Productions.
“I was going through an intense period of loneliness and feeling like a lot of people in my life were just bit actors waiting to clock out and leave the set after they got what they wanted,” says Atomic Houdini in a press release about his debut music video. “I imagined Dante, lost in the dark forest of his Inferno, wandering with vague direction, the people he knew vanishing into the trees beyond. Well that, but it’s Groundhog Day.”
For each track on Dandelion Fireworks, Atomic Houdini created a piece of artwork and even held a show for the 13 oil paintings at Negative Space gallery.
“It was set up so viewers could scan a QR code with their phones and then listen to the songs while checking out the canvases," he says of the art show, which took place in February of last year. "I had hoped to bookend the album with the momentum of these art shows I had set up all over Ohio for the rest of 2020. Then, the pandemic shut the world down, the shows were cancelled, and I lost my job. I had to keep creating to keep my sanity and I wanted another way to get closure on this project. It seemed fitting to return to the first song I had written for the album, to its themes of entrapment and repetition to deal with the isolation of quarantine”
Shooting the video was an almost entirely outdoor endeavor.
“We were out at this abandoned building in the middle of nowhere with Houdini in his underwear for a shot when all of the sudden a large group of hikers just showed up," says Nick Hartman of Harmonic Productions. "I think the camera helped legitimize the scene but they were definitely confused as to what was going down. We got a lot of stink-eye from some people while walking to shoot another scene because we had Houdini in hours worth of hex makeup and looking more than a tad demonic on a Sunday Morning.”
During the span of recording Dandelion Fireworks in his home studio, Atomic Houdini lost several family members and one of his best friends jumped to his death. The cover art is titled for that friend who had changed his name to Time Literally and is based on a collaborative piece of art with local Canton artist Ly Canfield.
“When you pick a dead dandelion and blow its florets into the air — and make that wish — you’re sending the seeds of its rebirth out into the world," says Atomic Houdini. "We’re not defined by what happens to us, but by how we choose to view and respond to it. I think a lot of us have tried to hold on to that sense of possibility in the face of this last year. Sometimes, we get to choose our closure, sometimes people don’t say, but I know I’m going to keep making those fireworks.”
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Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]