Arcade Fire: The Wilderness Downtown – B-Reel – 6.046

Since the release of Arcade Fire’s website for the track Neon Bible in 2008, now widely recognised as the first interactive music video, the band has continued to experiment with using digital technology to create unusual music experiences.

In late summer last year, the band achieved another huge success with its innovative interactive video for the song We Used To Wait, taken from the album The Suburbs. The site, created in collaboration with digital production company B-Reel and director Chris Milk, is designed to be used on the Google Chrome web browser. It opens by asking viewers to enter the name of the street that they grew up in and from here becomes a mixture of generic footage with more personal scenes. Utilising pop-up windows, the ‘video’ opens with a window showing a film of a man running through damp city streets. He is quickly joined by other pop-ups, showing flocks of starlings, and then Google Earth footage of the street entered at the beginning by the user. This spins in time to the music and to the movements of the figure, offering multiple views of the street.

The interactivity continues later in the song, when another pop-up invites users to type in advice for their teenage self. Viewers can also draw pictures on this screen, before birds fly across it and it becomes incor­porated into the unique video. All these effects combine to fit the nostalgic mood of the song perfectly, creating an intoxicating mix of interactive elements that empower the experience of the song, rather than becoming a distraction from it.

The We Used To Wait website began life as a project to showcase Google Chrome, rather than Arcade Fire, with Aaron Koblin (of Google’s Creative Lab) first contacting Milk for the project, who then brought the band on board. Despite this, it feels the perfect vehicle for a band who are interested in exploring the way that digital technology can enhance the way music is experienced. The resulting website is unique and emotional, and undoubtedly one of the most creative pieces of work of 2010.

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