A group of young men dance in slow motion on a roof in Algiers. On another roof, they pray on their knees in the direction of Mecca. They whisper in a hookah bar, and, in a back alley, they shadowbox in perfect time with an electronic beat, their jabs synched with pulsing synthesizers.
This is the world of “Territory,” the breakout music video for French electronic duo The Blaze. Uploaded to their YouTube channel last February, the clip quickly spread across the platform, tallying over 17 million views to date. Videographer Romain Gavras and “Moonlight” director Barry Jenkins deemed it “the best piece of art I’ve seen in 2017,” and by June it had won the Grand Prix at Cannes Lions, an honor usually reserved for the advertising industry’s most spectacular commercials.
The award-winning clip was just a taste of things to come. Fast forward to 2018, and the recently named Artist on the Rise have finally dropped their long-awaited debut LP “Dancehall,” complete with a pair of critically acclaimed visuals — their latest clip for “Queens” earned over 1M views in under a month, while “Heaven” already stands at 3.3M. And as recently teased on their channel’s Community tab, the duo are set to unleash their immersive live set on fans across North America this month.
“YouTube really enabled us to distribute our work everywhere, make it available for everyone,” The Blaze’s Jonathan and Guillaume Alric explain of the success. “To make our music videos, we're really trying our best to find themes and emotions that have a universal dimension. Maybe that's the reason why they touch so many people.”
Comprised of cousins Jonathan and Guillaume Alric, The Blaze began collaborating when Jonathan, an aspiring director, asked Guillaume, a budding musician, to soundtrack a music video he was making for class. From day one, they wanted to explore the relationship between these two forms of expression — sound and the visual element.
“The two go together because they both pull different emotional strings,” The Blaze explains. “When the harmony between the two is found, it really reinforces their emotional power. Both enable us to tell stories, but in different ways. Maybe music is felt more abstractly and video is more direct and explicit.”
The philosophy is evident in the duo’s earliest work, with their debut single “Virile” blurring the line between traditional music video and short form. The emotional clip found an immediate audience on YouTube — the duo took to social media a month after the release to celebrate it reaching 100,000 daily views — and set the stage for the hybrid audio and visual experiments that would follow.
“When we start with an idea for a video, we try to find which chord progression could radically transform this or that image,” the duo explains. “We don't have a secret recipe, we let things come and go naturally until we find this moment in which the emotion that emanates from the work is strong enough not to leave us.”
On YouTube, they’ve found a venue perfectly suited for these experiments — both the familiar and those yet to come. “We don't set ourselves any agenda or goal for the future,” the duo explains of their ongoing journey. “We know we are only at the beginning of The Blaze, this is only the start of our adventure. But we'll work as we always have not to lose the essence of our art, which is very much in the now, instinctive and spontaneous.”