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Uncertainty In SDH’s “Tell Them”

SDH by Patricia Fort
SDH by Patricia Fort

There may come a day when future generations associate the combination of grainy handheld footage and analog synthesizers with our present rather than the time period where these technologies flourished. Just as old TVs were awash with static, we are drenched with throwbacks to the cutting edge of the 1980s. Different styles of the past cycle through modern pop culture all the time, but not always quite in the same way. This recent fascination with the sounds of synth-pop and home-video quality film is a vastly different version of the 1980s than the rethrash movement that spilled pizza grease all over the metal scene ten years ago. So why this version of the 1980s, and why now?

The new video for “Tell Them” by Semiotics Department of Heteronyms, or SDH for short, offers a clue as to why this vision is so resonant these days. On paper, both the video and the song are quite simple: the duo of Andrea P. Latorre and Sergi Algiz walk alone at night through city streets to an insistent electronic pulse and barking bassline. There is very little in the way of action outside of a half-hearted attempt to climb a fence and a quick kiss, but the video is arresting nonetheless. The grainy footage limits the clarity of the frame. The darkness that surrounds Algiz and Latorre is crunched into an impenetrable black, while their faces are often flooded with uniform color. The details get left out, opening the door for something sinister to leak in and take their place. “Tell Them” is both intimate, given its home-video quality, and inscrutable.

The song itself is less “driving top-down through a Miami sunset” and more “goth night at Neo is getting a little weird.” Latorre sings in a laconic drawl over a rumbling low-end. Even if the sounds are known, they are removed, and with the exception of Latorre’s voice, recognizably inhuman. The song’s lyrics hinge on the similarity between the pronunciation of “lie” and “light.” Latorre lets the word trail off so that the final few letters are never clear, and often ellide into the digital hiss of the “hi-hat.” Normally, this kind of nit-picking leads to nothing but an over-scratched scalp, but here there may be lice yet. After all, the band’s name puts their interest in dual meanings of words front and center, and the lyric in question is literally about finding the truth in a deception.

Both the song and video hinge on uncertainty. What is real? What is a lie? Is there something lurking just out of our range of vision? What hides in that pixelated abyss?

These are questions that hang in the back of our throats these days, so it should be no surprise that art that puts them on the tip of our tongues is so tantalizing. Modern technology has never been capable of spreading so much information in vivid, high definition quality, yet reality feels more obfuscated by the day. The newest tools fail to capture that mood, so SDH will find the answers the old fashioned way.

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Here’s what the band have to say about the song:

It’s a DIY video of us walking by an industrial suburb of Barcelona where we used to have our practice space. It’s an attempt to explain the limits of a limitless body and the shape that remains once the form is gone. To know something very deeply while not knowing how to explain it because it doesn’t exist.

The Tell Them EP is available now through AVANT. Follow SDH on Facebook.

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