Justin Vernon enlisted collaborators to design a series of visuals to accompany the new Bon Iver album, 22, A Million. The clip for “8 (circle)” arrived on Tuesday, populated by white, hand-drawn shapes – geometric symbols, hearts, mathematical expressions and many incarnations of the number eight – that flash softly in front of a black background. The drawings are the work of Eric Timothy Carlson, who is credited as the video’s creator, director, and producer along with Aaron Anderson.
Carlson’s images flip by as the hazy, orchestral soul of “8 (circle)” drifts in the background. A brass section swells behind Vernon’s gentle lead vocal; a drummer lays out a light beat. During the second half of the track, the rhythm becomes more purposeful, and a multi-tracked choir of voices arrives to add heft to the arrangement.
Carlson worked closely with Bon Iver during the 22, A Million recording sessions to create the artwork for the album. “The songs were all numbers from the start,” he explained in a recent interview with the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. “So we would listen to each song, talk about the numbers, talk about the song, watch the lyrics take form, makes lists, make drawings. Real references and experiences are collaged in both the music and the artwork. I was able to interview and interrogate each song – digging into weird cores – and by the end of each visit, each song would develop a matrix of new notes and symbols.”
“Symbols just naturally come out of me,” he continued, “which is why I use them so much. Icons, signs, symbols – they are cultural fragments and a well-made one can cut so deep into our language. I’ve been mentally collecting these all my life.”
Several names are credited as writers on the track, including BJ Burton and Ryan Olson; Michael Lewis also penned additional lyrics. 22, A Million is the first Bon Iver album since 2011’s Bon Iver, Bon Iver.