In late May, while listening to police flash-bangs and screams of protestors outside his apartment in Seattle during the widespread protests following the May 25 death of George Floyd, multi-instrumentalist Jordan Thomas, a.k.a. Cool Ruins, says he felt the true implications of living in what he calls “a police state under the illusion of democracy.” In his fear, confusion and outrage, Thomas turned to his “loudest voice,” the original music he’s created as Cool Ruins for approximately five years.
“[I felt] utterly trapped,” said Thomas. “I, like a lot of people I think, am looking to find a way to express that our society has failed its people. My art is the most powerful way I can do that so I created an intense portrait of the times we are in.”
On August 28, 2020, Cool Ruins dropped his newest LP, Unfeeling, an ambient, glitch-soaked musical experience accentuated by Thomas’ caustic lyrics that take an unflinching look at life as we know it in 2020. The album is a sonic gut-check—an invitation to scrutinize the state of the world and ourselves, while enveloped in an otherworldly electronic soundscape. Today, Cool Ruins premieres their video for “The Fire, pt. 2″—one of the album’s boldest and most poignant tracks.
The video for “The Fire, pt. 2” opens to Thomas, half-naked and masked, writhing and gyrating against a cold concrete wall. Slowly, the image of a burning cop car in downtown Seattle fades in. As the foreboding track grows in rhythmic complexity and intensity, Thomas is shown with his head in his hands, his arms waving fanatically, trying to escape. The entire video was shot by Thomas on a GoPro in his apartment—which doubles down on the raw, vulnerable mood.
With this marriage of the emotional visuals with the track, “The Fire, pt. 2” becomes a haunting representation of the effect this crazy and painful year—ripe with social unrest, disease, and the hefty foreboding of apocalypse—has had on many of us. This makes the song and the video very relatable to watch. “To me it’s the visual representation of what’s happening inside my head. I know I’m not alone in that. Naked and masked I am writhing to break free,” said Thomas.
Ironically, Cool Ruins says he hadn’t completely planned this emotional resonance for the song. At the time of writing it, in fact, it was the only track on the album where he didn’t quite know its inspiration. He finally understood the greater meaning of his art once the visual was complete. “It was one of those extremely rare instances when the video created a new meaning for the music. The visual is so powerful that it changed the context of the song. ‘The Fire’ is the chaos that has enveloped our society,” said Thomas.
In more typical times, Thomas says Cool Ruins material refrains from such political statements, but he doesn’t believe he has the luxury to ignore the present state of the world. He feels a sense of responsibility to his listeners. “To be honest I never used to feel it was necessary to [be political],” he said. “But we live in a different time now. In these tumultuous times, it is the duty of the artist to enter into the abstract and return with a moral vision of the future.”
Cool Ruins hopes this track will be an invitation to break free of what entraps and maddens us. “Ultimately I’d like people to come away with a sense of empowerment to be able to freely express themselves and enact change,” Thomas said. “To examine and understand their deepest strengths and use them to make the world a better and more just place for everyone.”
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