“Shadow Work” – Music and Emotions in Uncertain Times

A year ago wave producer unit333 uploaded the Shadow Work Mix to their SoundCloud. It took half a year to curate, with unit333 carefully seeking out artists whose work fitted her goal: to showcase music which helps people process difficult emotions.

Heartbreak, sadness, depression, hopelessness, self-hatred. All things unit333 wanted to address via some of the best artists she could find. The Shadow Work Mix succeeds, thanks to contributions from jinsang, Cvllum, longlost and more.

Having recently gone back to it, I found one passage from its description has been going round and round in my mind:

“I just wanted to let you know that it’s okay to feel the feelings that you do, whatever it is, there is nothing wrong with it. Sometimes the most healing thing you can do is to sit with the feeling without judgement and listen to it. What is it trying to tell you?”

2020 was already giving us a pounding. With the murder of George Floyd, things ramped up to an unprecedented scale. A long-needed mass movement has emerged, challenging the oppressive structures built into our society in ways never seen before.

Regardless of your level of involvement with the protests, you’re involved. Everybody is working overtime, even if it’s just emotionally. The idea of feeling what you feel without judgement is crucial right now.

I’ve seen discussion among some artists about how to respond. The majority of artists have done what they can. Be it through sharing information, signal boosting and donations. Many artists have diverted revenue to charities. Some like Ada Rook are donating 100% of the earnings from their recent releases to bailout funds. Wave producer Essex has made an incredibly admirable pledge:

Other artists have been engaging in action on the frontlines of the protests. But again, everyone is involved. And everything you’re doing matters.

Hopefully, this movement will not wind down anytime soon. But things are slowly inching towards some kind of “new normal”. Now people are releasing material with more regularity, but I get the sense that there’s still some hesitation.

Can we really just return to releasing material as normal? I include myself in this, because I’ve struggled to work through the reviews I’ve had sitting on my desk. With lives literally on the line, with widespread violence and turmoil – putting out new reviews as if nothing’s changed has felt uncomfortable at best and tasteless at worst.

I’ve had discussions with musicians who feel similarly. We could all do well to heed unit333’s words right now. “It’s okay to feel the feelings that you do” and listen to them without judgement.

Originally this piece was going to be a list, similar to the one on “The Wave Dub War”. I wanted to ease myself back into posting, by sharing some songs that have been helping me. Things I’ve had on repeat that have allowed me to process things.

Unit333’s “Remembering Why I’m Here” was on that list. It’s soulful, haunting, but still something of a palette cleanser compared to the tracks around it. I’m sitting on a lot of anger right now, so songs like Takamachi Walk’s “Empty”, FEELSLXVE’s “Hit” and Axius Link’s “Raped” have been coming out of my speakers quite a bit.

Going through them and taking notes has helped. But I was concerned that I was centring myself too much. Talking about what’s helping me get through all of this felt inappropriate because I’m not on the frontlines. Despite being queer, and constantly terrified about my rights being rolled back, I’m not out there under threat of the very tangible violence our state is inflicting on others right now.

What is the point of all this? Well, this is the process. Going back and going through unit333’s SoundCloud reminded me of the words attached to the Shadow Work Mix. They prompted me to write this, to work through my emotions and hopefully reach out to others who may be in the same place.

Do not hesitate to make music, to release it, even if it’s not explicitly tied to what is happening right now. Everything you feel, everything you do, everything you produce is valid. The world needs your music.

And keep some of unit333’s other words in mind:

“Don’t be afraid <3 there’s a light at the end for you, you just have to try your best to keep going”.

The resources below are from “It’s Nice That.” There you’ll find a list of links divided up into charities, funds and initiatives to donate to; people and organisations to follow; books and articles to read, and petitions to sign:

It’s Nice That Resources.


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