For over two months, music bloggers and journalists have been plagued by an intricate, creepy and riveting mystery: the identity of the mysterious and macabre iamamiwhoami
. In December, a 55-second clip of a hyper-saturated, eerie (Scandinavian?) forest appeared on YouTube, making its way through critics' circles because of its catchy, pretty sounding music. No information was given, just the title "Prelude 699130082.451322-184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11.14.1.12
." The set of numbers following the dash, when matched to their alphabetical correspondents, spell "Educational." A few weeks later, a second video
emerged, with a dirt-covered blonde girl seductively licking trees to a slow, driving electronic beat -- the message this time, "Its Me." Each video ended with the outline of an animal: a goat and an owl, respectively.
, a rock editor at MTV News who discovered the videos while scanning blogs, covered the story after a third video emerged.
He rounded up the list of suspects, which included the band MGMT, Lady Gaga and Bjork, as well as more obvious picks like Trent Reznor (who has done this before) and Christina Aguilera (who seems to be the favorite
). "I contacted her people and they told me it wasn't her," says Montgomery. "So I wrote my piece about how it 'wasn't Xina,' and then, all of a sudden, he/she/it started emailing me." The next video, accompanied by a funkier and more cheerful song, featured the painted girl again, up-close, with freakishly large eyes -- and was sent directly to Montgomery's e-mail. This time, it spelled "Mandragora."
The next video ("Officinarum") increased the count to five (the featured animals, at that point, comprised of a goat, owl, whale, bee and llama). Then, on Friday, Montgomery received a package from a messenger service. "It was a thin, brown envelope with my name and floor typed on the front, and no return address." Inside was a strand of hair from the blonde wig, some bits of wood, and what Montgomery calls a codex (pictured above). Also, a new video emerged, this time spelling "Welcome Home" and featuring a monkey (chimp?). Mandragora Officinarum
is a binomial name for a mandrake plant, and the persona's supposed Twitter account
identifies them as "Huldra," another mythological name. (We're still waiting on your Twitter acceptance, guy/girl.)
The Net is aflame with speculation. Who has the capacity (and the money) to pull off such an elaborately planned viral campaign? What is with all of the black dogs and strawberries? And what does the number six mean (e.g., six animals, six videos, six graves)? Montgomery has told us that Xtina's camp has fervently denied her involvement, but that doesn't exclude her entirely. What might, however, is the music, which sounds more similar to newer electronic music from artists like Goldfrapp and Lykke Li. His dark horse is the collective Crystal Castles. We personally think this reeks of Reznor, although the Xtina camp is convincing.
"Seriously, this is why this is probably the best viral campaign ever: No one has been able to solve it," Montgomery expounds. "It's been going on and on, at its own languid pace, and people just keep getting more hooked." The music sounds Scandinavian, like The Knife or Mum. The first, fifth and sixth video are beautiful, if not terrifying. Also, this certainly isn't Lady Gaga. The puzzle, to us, at least, is clear: solve the codex, solve the mystery. And, let us know, because we're beginning to lose sleep over it.