Music from the shadows belongs in the shadows….
Smoky, foreboding, tense and chest-pressingly heavyweight: Shadow People is Truth and Youngsta’s latest project and it’s a genuinely remarkable piece of work. Precision-produced dynamics, bold and smoky, tightly sewn with a consistent macabre aesthetic; the smouldering 808s, paranoid textures, yearning, lonesome voices of the likes of Animai, Lelijveld and Rosa soundtrack a conceptual dystopian world set in the near future. A world where, so the Shadow People’s bio tells us, a tragic event triggers a new dystopia, driven by a new power of privileged elite: The awakened.
From the catastrophic aftermath of an alchemical experiment executed far from the reaches of hazy light in downtown Los Angeles, Shadow People emerged from the smoking ruins like cockroaches during nuclear winter. Testing sonic limitations in this new world, their transmissions began to create hope within an unstable reality, providing sanctuary for all who listened. Now, like their decaying surroundings, the Shadow People channel the dramatic, minimal and morose into lucid creation. No longer subjugated by the shackles of classification that plagued their world, they embrace mutation and forging paths untrodden.
The sonic collars match the conceptual cuffs. Take a listen for yourself….
This sets the scene for the full release on Deep, Dark & Dangerous on February 28. A detailed, considered piece of work that’s designed to be digested in its full album context, it took three years in the making and the timing is everything: Truth have just experienced their most successful, and decorated, year to date while OG Youngsta continues to power-up the dance with serious Sentry boosts.
But while the IRL components’ profiles are well known, respected and appreciated, for this interview they’re talking as Shadow People themselves, and taking us deep into their bleak new dystopia. It’s time to step into the shadows…
What caused the incident and how far did its effects tremor around the world?
The details are hazy. Nobody really knows. It is impossible to know… of course everyone has a theory. Maybe it was just an accident, the unfortunate consequence of experiments conducted in secret underground labs. Who can guess what alchemy was being concocted in those subterranean depths. Perhaps it was planned in order to sow chaos and bring about a new hierarchy. But in truth, there are no records, no point of reference, so like a person spiralling in interstellar space, we have no way of knowing which is up or down.
What we do know is that it brought an end to our old dystopian society, but the cruel phoenix of power inevitably rose from the dust, rubble and ash. A new power, calling themselves The Awakened, they were the self-appointed messiah, a final hope for our species.
The new Dystopia had emerged.
To begin with, we were all fighting a war against the common enemy: starvation, lack of shelter, clothing, warmth. According to The Awakened that is all we can ever afford to focus on. No place for compassion, love, creativity, no place for humanity, just a minimum level of survival.
Now the war is against us, the population: power is their ultimate goal. Keeping this deformed and mutated structure of society intact has become the means to retain that power.
How long did it take for you to find fellow survivors and create a situation where you could make music and broadcast transmissions?
At first people blindly accepted what they were told, after all this was survival. Like being led in a dream, they followed unquestioningly. However, partway through the fantasy some awoke to find themselves in a nightmare they couldn’t escape from, as though paralysed… Forced to watch themselves, but unable to move, or even breathe. Carried inexorably onward, sometimes believing everything, at one with the movement and loving their tormentors. At other times helplessly being dragged along like someone caught in a merciless current, desperately swimming for the dreary shore, knowing they are about to submerge into the blackness never to resurface.
At some point, something changed, enough of us began to read through the lines, we were able to discern glimpses of Truth through the lies. Or at least, what we thought could be Truths, for when one is indoctrinated by the propaganda and mythos of a new dictatorship, it is impossible to actually know anything. Rather, doubts began appearing like glimpses of phantoms caught for an instant in the corner of your eye.
At that moment, escape became a necessity. For to continue was to no longer be human.
How badly affected are your people?
If you want to picture the people in our time, picture row after row of expressionless faces marching toward a future they know nothing about. Silently screaming, but unable to show anything, their faces like masks. Unable to question, or even show dissent.
How much in danger are you in?
Sitting here in this decaying corpse of a building, in the shadowy area away from the light which is streaming through the fissures in the ceiling, I’m reminded we must be constantly vigilant, sensing danger at every step like a deer that knows it’s being stalked. There is no room for what we do in this authoritarian system, to even be suspected of breaking this dogma would mean a trip to the front line, clearing toxic fallout or salvaging materials from the desolation. Death would be preferable to that, and would be inevitable in any case.
How has this affected the music you write?
The music you create holds up a mirror to your surrounding. It’s a reflection, an augmentation, but also an escape. More than that, it is a criminal and subversive behaviour. Contrary to the very principles our society attempts to impose on all. It is something to be crushed, eradicated and disposed of. As a result, our music is created furtively in the shadows, a soundtrack to our sorry existence in this cursed world.
When you look back at times before, what do you miss?
Shielding my eyes against the harsh grey light reflected off the dust, I look out across the ruined structures, sticking out like the broken posts of a fence that is being reclaimed by sand dunes. I struggle to think back to a time before this. What was it like, truly?
Fleeting examples spring to mind: Certain insect species such as ants have not been seen for decades. There is now a constant worry about when the food or water may run out, but we have our ways. Or when the brothers and sisters from The Awakened might intercept a transmission, and finally hunt us down, which is inevitable. Life without those worries, well… there is no point in daydreaming…
What don’t you miss? What are you glad has gone?
The old dystopia, while very different, was also exactly the same. People carried along in a flow, distracted from everything that matters by everything that does not. Unwittingly dictated to from above, while being fed the lie of self awareness and freedom of expression. Mice in a wheel, constantly going round and round and round, but never going anywhere.
It is the same now, being fed the lie that there is no hope except for that shimmering beacon: The Awakened. Providing sanctuary, food and shelter, but at the price of unquestioning obedience and the effective servitude of continuous labour.
How is the future looking from your perspective?
There is no future. Only a present, stretching as far as the imagination can take it. Overwhelming and obnoxious it is inescapable, like suffocating fumes from a toxic fire. But even in this cruel reality, there is still room for love, happiness and humanity.
What happens next?
We descend deeper into Shadows.