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Behind Florence + the Machine's stunning visual album, 'The Odyssey'

‘It was a journey to self,’ frontwoman Florence Welch said at a screening

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Amid the madness that Lemonade unleashed on the internet in late April, Florence + the Machine shared a visual album of their own: a 47-minute art film set to tracks from their excellent 2015 record How Big How Blue How Beautiful.

Florence released the project in short installments over the course of the last year, debuting the collection in full April 25 on their website. While at a screening of the finished film Wednesday night in New York City, frontwoman Florence Welch revealed some of the context behind its storyline.

“It was a journey to self in a way. I thought it was about a journey of trying to get back into a relationship, and then maybe it was about trying to find a new relationship with myself,” she said. “It is about a return, but it wasn’t what I thought it would be. We were looking a lot at Dante’s Inferno because there are so many levels, and you have to go deeper and deeper into darker and darker places, and then you have to come back.”

In the visuals, Welch wrestles with the demons thrust upon her by love, life, and family, searching for herself among moments that shift from quiet to chaos. The opening sequence jolts to life after an abrupt car crash, then dips into a stunning lull when Welch crawls out to wander across a freeway while humming “St. Jude” a cappella. Later, she breaks dishes atop her dining room table, bids a lover a solemn goodbye, and fends off a doppelgänger that continuously pops up to throw her world into disarray.

Much of the project features abstract, emotionally charged choreography, an aspect that Welch explains was one of the driving forces for creating the film. “[Dance] was important for me because I was really at sea [when writing],” she said. “I’d just been dumped, and I wasn’t playing gigs. I literally had no idea what to do with myself, so I just started to dance. Having a physical outlet for these things was hugely important.”

The collection serves as a distinct departure from the group’s earlier work. Whereas Florence may have relied on heavy makeup and elaborate imagery in previous videos, The Odyssey finds her clean, raw, and quite literally bare.

“In the other albums, I started to get quite scared of being famous, so I got very into having a lot of props and costumes and hair because it’s lots of stuff you can hide behind. [The Odyssey] allowed me to be myself in a way,” she said. “But it was scary. There were times when I wanted to put a cap back on or do my hair because it was very exposing, but it was incredibly liberating too. When you’re hurt and angry, you don’t feel pretty and contained, you feel f—ing angry and you feel naked. So I thought, ‘Let’s be angry and naked.’”

Watch The Odyssey, directed by Vincent Haycock, in full on Florence + the Machine’s website. See the trailer for the film below.