Bon Iver's '8 (Circle)' music video will give you a million tattoo ideas

Tome of symbols were created by artist Eric Timothy Carlson

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The Independent Culture

A fascination with numerology and subversion of language pervades Bon Iver’s new album/project, 22, A Million, particularly in his lyric videos, which are filled with cave wall etching-esque symbols and corrupted religious iconology.

His latest, for one of the album’s standout tracks, ‘8 (Circle)’, is essentially just a sequence of symbols and patterns that move on the beat, and I’d happily have a good 80% of them inked on my body.

Brooklyn-based artist Eric Timothy Carlson is the man behind the album packaging, murals, newspapers, lyric videos, and other materials surrounding the album, and spoke about it with Pitchfork this week.

Lyric videos are sometimes a bit of a cop-out or of poor quality, and Carlson was definitely aware of this heading in.

“The lyric videos initiative came from Justin [Vernon],” he said. “I’m not sure they ended up looking like what he was imagining, but that’s one of the things that has been so great about the project: the trust in the work of everyone involved.

“I was originally a little hesitant about the lyric video concept, largely due to the quality of lyric videos in general, and because I was dreaming of an entirely abstract/ambient visual component to live with the music online, without typography. 

“But many lyric videos found online are made by fans—iMovie/After Effects motion graphics class projects. I feel that that amateur aesthetic has gone on to inform what official, professionally produced lyric videos look like.”

Carlson also discussed the moment he realised the magnitude of the work he was creating.

“Between the numerology, the metaphysical/humanist nature of the questions in 22, a Million, and the accumulation of physical material and symbolism around the music—it became apparent that the final artwork was to be something of a tome,” he explained. “A book of lore. Jung’s Red Book. A lost religion. The Rosetta Stone. Sagan’s Golden Record. Something to invest some serious time and mind in.”

22, A Million, is out now on all good streaming services. You can read our 5-star review of it here.