While she’s made her mark as a singer and songwriter — on her own and in collaboration with her late father Chris, with Daniel Lanois in Black Dub, with Kid Koala and others — Trixie Whitely has been showing off her dance skills in a trilogy of videos for her latest album, Lacuna, including “May Cannan,” premiering exclusively below.
“I always dance and I love dancing, and I think that has to do with why drums were my first instrument and such a natural instrument to me, because dance is so much about rhythm,” Whitley tells Billboard. “It’s kind of the language of your body — at least that’s how I perceived it. I just think time and how you feel time is a very personal and very physical thing in itself. It’s probably one of my strengths throughout any vehicle I express myself through.”
The Lacuna trilogy, which Whitley created with Hannah Marshall (Florence + the Machine, Goldfrapp, The xx) and filmed over the course of two days in London, began with a solo piece in “Touch” and a duo in “Long Time Coming.” “May Cannan,” meanwhile, is a group project, filled with well-sculpted bodies and contemporary, sometimes yoga-inspired choreography. The idea, she explains, is an abstract representation of the album’s examination of “the space in-between” human relationships.
“On (‘May Cannan’) I wanted to extend it to more of a collective,” Whitley explains. “I think it’s a very clear line and thread that runs through the (album) as well, a constant observation of both the individual in a collective society and the tension that occurs, what we go through as individuals vs. the impact of culture and society and the collective on the human species — what those effects are, and how we interact. Movement and dance formed an integral part of the language that I wanted to use to tell this story.”
“Throughout the trilogy I used water as the element that connects us all — our life force,” says Marshall of directing Whitley. “Inspired by the lifelong work of Masaru Emoto, the Japanese author and scientist who made the connection between water and human consciousness. Physical movement is a primal and powerful means of expression and throughout the decade of collaborating with female music artists, I’ve always gravitated towards those who perform their music in a very visceral way. The journey of working with Trixie and the dancers has been inspiring and fulfilling to explore and capture a non-verbal communication, that speaks volumes.”
Lacuna, Whitley’s sixth solo release, came out during January and found her collaborating with Run the Jewels cohort Little Shalimar. “In all honesty I kind of lost interest with the hip-hop scene over the last decade until I discovered Run the Jewels,” Whitley notes. “When I was touring my last record I started blasting Run the Jewels to my drummer, and he was like, ‘I know these guys’ and introduced me to Little Shalimar. We hit it off right away; It felt like running into a familiar old friend while, of course, still having to get to know each other. But it felt like my early years with Lanois, kind of kindred spirits in this hunger for innovation and to think and work outside the box. It was really exciting.”
Now Whitley is looking forward to taking the Lacuna show on the road, with a tour starting April 24 in Portugal, with North American dates slated for June. She isn’t bringing all the dancers with her, but Whitley promises that the video trilogy will be represented, via projections, in the live shows as well. “That’s a dream I’ve always had — How can I incorporate my instrumentalism and perform as well?” Whitley says. “I’ve always wanted to invent kind of a language of my own, and this is the first record where I feel like I’m incorporating all of what I am into the live show, so it’s exciting. There will be aspects of the dance show while I play instruments. It’ll be something new — but I like that, a lot.”