‘Trust Issues’ Audiovisual Album — A Response

Trust Issues is the dynamic and queer audiovisual album from alt pop Afro-Kiwi artist adv (Alex de Vries), fittingly scheduled for release during Auckland Pride Month. Inspired in part by indie musician Leo Bhanji and electronic dance artist Rainy Miller,  the South African ‘sadboi’ calls upon the rich sounds of soul, funk and RnB to explore what remains of himself in the afterglow of a waning and toxic relationship. adv’s debut record is accompanied by a dynamic flipbook of eight music videos premiered at Bridgeway Cinema in the quiet of Northcote Point.  

A metronome quietly knocks about as we slowly approach it in ‘Bubblebath’. The visual ticking is a double-edged reminder of the slipping passage of time. There’s slightly cliche scenes of the artist sinking into a bathtub, exposing his skin and laying on the floor, but imagery like the murky waters in the tub sets up the figurative tone and notes of the film—that relationships and self image are hard to pinpoint, especially in grief.

We’re introduced to the main toxic relationship of the film that adv and co-star Georgie Llewellyn create. In alt-pop track ‘Back Of You’, its softer RnB sensibility has ironically rough scenes of conflict. Deftly directed by Kelsey Chapman, the temper rippling through Llewellyn’s body language is obvious and tense while adv has become withdrawn. But, like all relationships, it’s the good that can make thinking of leaving an inner turmoil. This is made clear in framing and being looked at by adv in fourth wall breaks, as Llewellyn takes over as their rageful partner. However, it was the more subtle moments for Llewellyn—such as when the pair later reconcile in a possessions swap—that left a greater impression on me.

‘Do It Over’ (video out 23rd February) lets loose in catharsis for both adv and the audience with its gospel-like vocals. Sometimes, simple is better, and that is certainly the case in the piano backbone and minimal production. Despite dark lyrics, the video instead leans upon the wider optimism of the song. Trust Issues often features brief additions of lo-fi musings, which ‘Do It Over’ carries well. It’s as if adv is claiming narrative afterthoughts or hidden personal abstractions when he says, “Every relationship, even the bad ones, there’s a little bit of something good and you’ve just got to hold onto the memory of that.” The video soars in its colours and editing, especially when multiple people come together to sing like a carefree choir.

‘Shed Your Skin’ is a sapphic joy to behold. It was masterfully crafted by the sweetness of its actors’ performances and direction by Chye-ling Huang. The exciting costuming is a highlight, as is the ensemble cast of actors whose emotional and physical connections are captured by enlightening cinematography.

The artist seems to use cars as status symbols and indications of relationships in the same way Frank Ocean might in ‘Sweater Song’. The catchy, rhythmic verses are intercut with brief black-and-white flashbacks that string together other aspects from the previous music videos, creating a narrative continuity that audiovisual albums do well to strive for.

Just like its namesake, ‘Shimmer’ catches our attention and brings the energy back up. It’s a delightful dance-oriented visual feast that made being seated undesirable. With his veiled lover in white lying in his lap, adv wonders, ”Do we dance in the afterglow?”  There are visual references to The Creation of Adam, suggesting a rebirth of a sort. Adding choreography to this track uplifted the film as a whole, making me hope that I’ll see more of adv incorporating dance in future.

My favourite perspective-shifting moments included adv running after a miniature toy car pulled by a string, kind of like a gay Godzilla. His vocals truly begin to shine in the middle of the album, in his smooth falsetto and ad-libs such as in ‘Just Tryna Be’ and ‘Outro’. The artist has a screen presence that softly grasps onto your bent knees, pleading for understanding while wrought with grief. At one point in the film, there’s finally a breath of fresh air, as rural and coastal landscapes take shape beyond our narrator. adv’s presence is accentuated in costume—his red flannel contrasts against the muted greenery in the background. The final pulled focus suggests a shift in emotional clarity that I felt alongside him. Films feel like a journey as much as albums do, in this way. When music and film unite, it’s hard not to be moved.

Common to queer, independent projects were the many friendly and dedicated hands of musicians, creatives and performers that reached out to make light work of this entire piece. When one queer project takes off, it often takes off for and because of us. That’s how this project felt, as I sat in my comfy cinema chair amongst a range of excited and supportive people.

adv’s Trust Issues makes an excellent debut—one which I expect will only reap many more rewards down the line for this talented and sincere artist. From March 14th, you can best experience the audiovisual side alone as well as with friends and get involved with the album release show at Wine Cellar and Ponsonby Social Club gig. There’ll even be an accompanying zine titled The Trust Issue from Lulu Qiu, with a foreword from local gay icon and poet Nathan Joe.

A visual supplement to a studio record works incredibly well, especially when there is a main concept. Audiovisual albums hence remind me of the quote by Jean-Michel Basquiat: “Art is how we decorate space, music is how we decorate time.”  For Trust Issues, going through the motions of failing relationships to rediscover identity necessitates and affords a lot of space (whatever that means to you) and repaints the feeling of time spent and time lost. It also means that a visual story can be varied in style and direction, but most benefit from narrative continuity. The different directors for the music videos don’t pull us across too many paths, but instead celebrate the facets of human experience and growth.


In a dream, you saw a way to survive, and you were filled with joy.


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