Watch Allie X find unknown pleasures in ‘Catch’

The Canadian alt-pop artist is tied up and suspended from the ceiling in the cryptic video for her soaring track

A year ago, singer Allie X surfaced as a small pop miracle — traceless and fully formed —  silently seizing overnight attention and affection. Like inexplicable musical phenomena Lana Del Rey and iamamiwhoami before her, she arrived as an alien to the scene. A Canadian with no specific pop provenance, Allie Hughes made her insider-outsider stance clear immediately, launching her music career as a wisely designed enigma, only accessible through a few song uploads and inscrutable imagery. She showed, never told, and only gave a glimpse of herself as a wraith wrapped in a long sheet of black hair and oversized shade, captured in compulsive, queasy motion in her videos.

At the center of the mythbuilding was a perfect glistening electropop song called “Catch,” one of those enduring under-the-radar gems that time and distance will treat kindly. Allie X’s sound may tread in the same gene pool as Chvrches and MØ, but her thematic content is more ominously personal, while her hooks are huge(r). Katy Perry was bewitched by “Catch”, and her tweet of support alone placed X onto the near-mainstream radar last Spring. Other intriguing songs (and insignia) such as “Bitch” and “Prime” emerged from the singer over the course of 2014, but the Allie X project remains mainly shrouded in secrecy and betted potential. The singer emphasizes the “X” factor in her moniker for a good reason, with her bio helpfully proposing to “add X to your own equation.”  As we well should. Great things stem from X: The X Files, X-Men, Becoming X by the Sneaker Pimps, maternal genetic code, the promise of the unknown.

A year of “ones to watch” later, Allie X now begins work on a formal launch strategy, starting today with the long-awaited launch of the official “Catch” video, directed by Jérémie Saindon. As you might hope, it’s not like anything else available in music videos right now, and offers a lot in the way of suggestion, with very little explanation. Like those quirky .GIF videos, it is heavy on manic, jerky gesture, desolation, and surreal, sterile environment. ‘(We) agreed on some common themes and feelings brought forth by these images we wanted to “xplore”- death, existence, sedation, anatomic study, and sexuality,’ the singer tells Dazed. “In general I think it's safe to say Jérémie was more deliberate with the images he combined, where for me the process has been rather unconscious.

The total result is a defamiliarized fantasy that interweaves the impossible with a sense of deja vu, like visual knowledge you lost in a dream. Things “Catch” summons to mind, in free associative flashes: Magritte, Eyes Wide Shut, the death of St. Sebastian, Marilyn Manson as captured by David LaChapelle, American Horror Story: Asylum, the poisoned femininity in the work of Floria Sigismondi, a Vogue shoot in the hands of a medical oddities fetishist. Like all things X, the clip is deeply psychological, a distinct theme she acknowledges. “The Allie X project is definitely influenced by psychology, particularly Carl Jung.  Not because I'm an expert, or have any answers, mind you, but because I am fascinated.  I want to be a better person.” Jungian archetypes such as the “shadow self” and anima and animus have graced her work before, and are winked at again with the transformative butterfly motif running throughout “Catch.” 

For all its pop cryptology, the video is tastefully explicit, yet one scene may be too visceral for some:  the singer dangles from the ceiling as an elegant martyr, naked and speared from head to toe. X says that such tortured depictions, in art at least, deal with a suspension that ‘actually feels rather comforting and familiar.’ She draws an unusual parallel: ‘In the original Little Mermaid fable, she can't become a human without feeling as if swords are going through her feet. “Every step you take will feel as if you were treading upon knife blades so sharp that blood must flow.” I have always related to that idea: “no pain no gain.” It’s not something I'm proud of.” That said, there’s a lot ahead for Allie X to feel very proud of, including her first formal release, CollXtion I, which releases in April on her own label. After that, she’ll embrace the unknown – naturally.  “My artistic quest is to raise questions and grapple the answers in a public sphere." she says.“I am not sure if it will ever result in anything conclusive on my part – I hope it does.  But there is certainly a release that I feel throughout and that I hope others that become X feel.”