The effect of the Internet on anonymity is a topic that's had its fair share of media coverage of late in the wake of government whistle-blowing, Congressional inquiries, and the Ashley Madison leak. Among music publications specifically, commentary has often bordered on wistful eulogy, not for the anonymity of Internet users, per se, but for the sense of mystery that sometimes accompanied musical discoveries in the pre-Internet era — chance finds in cramped record shops, the romanticized frustration of knowing almost nothing about an idolized artist. Today, with a little motivation and some bandwidth, a modern fan can learn exactly what his favorite band's drummer looks and dresses like, where its guitarist was born or gets his coffee, even its frontman's views on current issues.
But not all artists have chosen to publish information about themselves online, and in many ways, the Internet has actually facilitated easier artistic anonymity than ever before. Building up any sort of fanbase in 1980 required touring, media coverage, and public appearances — all activities which typically involved the artist disclosing his identity, and which peddled personal disclosure as their primary commodity. In the age of the World Wide Web, meanwhile, audiences can be reached via Bandcamp accounts or music videos, HypeMachine or SoundCloud mixes, all of which offer the mp3 (rather than lifestyle reporting) as their most valuable product. The effect is that the artist, more so than ever before, can work facelessly from the confidentiality of his home computer without sentencing his art to obscurity.
Tom Clemons is about as anonymous as they come nowadays. Partly this is by his own design; he's chosen to disclose not a single piece of information about himself other than his name (which may easily be a pseudonym), and has no social media presence to speak of. Partly as well this stems from his odd lack of success in reaching an audience, which in turn has meant almost no coverage from the music blogosphere, except for this think-piece by Gabriel Chad Boyer for Mutable Sound (likely, the decision to remain anonymous does, still, significantly impact an artist's chances at success, even if the effect is less than it used to be). The result of all this is that Clemons' music is just sitting in the vast public index of the clearnet, as if waiting for some serendipitous Internet discovery just like a dusty, forgotten LP from the so-called days of yore.
All Clemons' music is presented via short music videos built from compiled found footage, which is often taken from obscure or long-forgotten films (think one cobwebbed 45" sampling another). They are almost always surreal in nature, be it the underwater dream sequence of "Danger," the transhuman cyberscape of "Follow," or the grainy escapism of "Yesterday is Free." That these films sample rather than shoot only furthers the sense of mystery and anonymity surrounding Clemons, since none of the characters, locations, or visual choices (beyond the curatorial decisions made by Clemons in splicing the videos together) relates directly to the songwriter.
Despite all being united by this same dreamy surrealism, the individual films bear wholly different atmospheres from each other, both visually and sonically. The soundtrack to "Danger" feels situated in the nineties rock of Yo La Tengo or Flaming Lips, while "Sirens" loops a quasi-hip-hop instrumental around a sample of sirens and clips of a police chase. "For The Night" features drum-machine dance pop, and stand-out "Old PTown" is soft acoustic folk, fodder for the singer-songwriter fetishists but done right.