‘Backline’: Angelina Toros and funkshn’s kinetically-charged music … – STIRworld

The wreckage of a crashed racing car sits burning, its driver presumably deceased. It is being watched by two mysterious entities, who reveal the events that led to the fatal collision: the car races across a track, moving ever faster, until the driver loses control, and his momentum becomes his undoing. The “watchers” resurrect him, transporting him to a parallel world, wherein he joins their ranks and resumes his singular pursuit of speed. This is Backline, a music video made with 3D animation that went live on October 27, 2023, and was created by the 3D artist and art director Angelina Toros, to accompany the track of the same name by the musician Aleksei Surkov, who is better known as “funkshn”. The track is a part of the Rebord EP, which has been released on the label Hypersonic, which is based in Mexico.

Backline by funkshn, 2023 Video: Angelina Toros and Aleksei Surkov

Backline is a highly charged track and its thumping bass beats sit perfectly among the rest of Surkov’s pulverising EP. The artist, who is based in Russia, introduces his bass-heavy musical practice, telling STIR that he is guided by emotion above all and that he works instinctually. He tends to fuse bass sounds and synthesiser music and mentions that he is heavily influenced by the drum and bass music of the late 2000s.

The car from Backline breaking down, 2023 Image: Angelina Toros and Aleksei Surkov

Surkov’s collaborator Toros explains that for her, working with musicians is always an opportunity to experiment and try something new as a visual artist, that, in her words, “would be too edgy or raw for my commercial work”. The artist and designer who is based in London expands on this, “While my commercial projects tend to be more polished and shinier, for these collaborations I am drawn to hazier analogue-inspired looks and abstract non-linear storytelling. Most of the time I discover a certain aesthetic that I want to try out and the narrative emerges from that. This was the case with Backline.”

The car from ‘Backline’ transforming, 2023 | Backline | Angelina Toros and Aleksei Surkov | STIRworld
The car from Backline transforming, 2023 Image: Angelina Toros and Aleksei Surkov

The duo agreed to use a motorsport theme for the project due to a shared appreciation of the aesthetics and visual language developed by early 2000s racing video games. In particular, Need For Speed Underground (2003) seems to have left a deep impression on both Surkov and Toros, through its neon-drenched cityscapes and thumping breakbeat-style menu music. Toros highlights the importance that racing games from the time held on the visual art of the project, telling STIR, “For me, Backline was born purely out of that aesthetic.” She mentions an obsession with collecting visual mood boards and says that she already had an abundance of car-related imagery, including 3D art of deconstructed vehicles that she had sourced from anime, racing photography and video games. She regards the aesthetic that emerged out of these to be a perfect fit with Surkov’s frenetic “deconstructivist” approach to music making.

Backline’s’ racer screams across a track, 2023| Backline | Angelina Toros and Aleksei Surkov | STIRworld
Backline’s racer screams across a track, 2023 Image: Angelina Toros and Aleksei Surkov

On the topic of deconstruction, Toros tells STIR that an exploration of “metaphorical breakdown and transformation” has informed the narrative of Backline. To the duo, this is not unlike death and rebirth, which Toros explains, “The video starts with a crash; a literal point of breakdown. The driver dies, but with the help of mysterious watchers, is resurrected and transported to a parallel world to become one of them. To me, the dying here is metaphorical, it’s more about hitting that critical point which shakes you up and wakes you up, to make you retrace your steps and go through a transformation—to ‘reassemble’ yourself in a new reality.”

The landscape of the parallel world in ‘Backline’, 2023| Backline | Angelina Toros and Aleksei Surkov | STIRworld
The landscape of the parallel world in Backline, 2023 Image: Angelina Toros and Aleksei Surkov

Surkov adds to this, referencing the film Freejack (1992), in which a racecar driver is transported to the future, mere moments before his death. The opening of Backline is a nod to the film. “We decided to crash the car of our lonely racing driver and transport him to another world in which he could find some friends. We wanted this world to be a very distorted reality in which there are no laws of physics or any other familiar principles. So, it was like these mysterious creatures were telling our character, ‘You are a racing driver and in here there is nothing else to do. We know you do it well, so enjoy yourself,” he tells STIR.

Portrait photograph of Angelina Toros, 2023| Backline | Angelina Toros and Aleksei Surkov | STIRworld
Portrait photograph of Angelina Toros Image: Angelina Toros and Aleksei Surkov

Beyond Backline, the duo plans to continue working together, both as collaborators on future music videos and as digital performers, which will see Toros create live visuals for Surkov’s music. Toros believes that their aesthetic sensibilities align and mentions that there are already two future projects in the works, which she describes as “a melancholic sci-fi dream and a claustrophobic mundane nightmare”.

Portrait photograph of Aleksei Surkov, 2023| Backline | Angelina Toros and Aleksei Surkov | STIRworld
Portrait photograph of Aleksei Surkov Image: Angelina Toros and Aleksei Surkov

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