A mix of unorthodox rave music that highlights Latin American producers.
Colombia has one of the most exciting electronic music scenes in the Western Hemisphere. If you need proof, read today's in-depth feature, which follows Max Pearl to some of the country's best clubs and festivals. Medellín, its second biggest city, is where a lot of the action is taking place, and there's one label in particular that stands out: Insurgentes. Run by Medellín natives Verraco and Defuse, Insurgentes releases unorthodox rave, electro and IDM from producers around Latin America. If you're unfamiliar with the label, last year's mini-compilation, Medellín Rave Society, is a good place to start. It establishes their intense but emotionally generous approach to dance music.
For his RA podcast, Verraco places a special emphasis on Colombian and Latin American producers. You won't hear any obvious Latin American musical referents here, but there is an invigorating freshness that might come from this shifted geographical approach. He uses tactical mixing to make sudden rhythmic shifts feel natural, blending glitchy breakbeats with retrofuturistic electro and dramatic ambient passages. It makes for a dynamic narrative that takes lots of twists and turns without losing the plot.
What have you been up to recently?
Basically watching from the distance, and feeling powerless, while my country is living an endless nightmare because of an extreme right-wing government that threatens the fundamental rights of Colombians without any scruples. Due to a scholarship from the Spanish government, I had to leave Medellín to come to Barcelona for some months to do a master's degree. This, I cannot deny, has also given me the opportunity to play some exciting dates that I never thought I would have so quickly. Recently I played at MUTEK.ES.
How and where was the mix recorded?
A month ago in the apartment I'm renting with my best friend in Barcelona, just a few meters from the kitchen in an improvised studio. I couldn't get all the machinery I use in my DJ sets, so I had to adapt and do it with what I had at hand: computer, controllers and a bit of processing with Intellijel Rainmaker and Max For Live. It ended up being an appealing challenge that illuminated my path in terms of how to present a podcast where the primary intention is contemplation.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
To synthesize everything, I'd say that it's a selection of devastating body-brain music. I tried to get this mix to have a guiding thread that went beyond the conservative club narratives we usually make. So it's not so much guided by tempo or rhythmic structures, but more by its emotional weight. I wanted to present a balanced drama-vortex between pain and fury, but in the end, pain always lasts longer.
I recently reached that beautiful moment where the music your friends send you is the stuff that genuinely excites you the most. So in the mix I present a lot of material from Colombians and other Latin Americans; actually I think they represent more than half of the tracklist. So it's like The Baker or Retrograde Youth crossing with PAN, with UIQ, with Shed, or from the other side, Alva Noto or Mika Vainio mixed with Arca, with NAAFI. Those are the bridges that I want to build, the gaps I want to equate, because as Latinxs we are not condemned to a single aesthetic, to a single rhythm or discourse. Those are the sonic exchanges that most inspire me now.
In the end, I think it really boils down to my best friends liking it. The music I make or play, I always do it with them in mind. I did this mix thinking about my WhatsApp group called "Esto no lo para nadie," about Cope, about Nyksan and about my mentor Nicolás Vallejo. This is for them.
How would you describe what's been happening in the last few years with the Colombian electronic music scene, and more specifically with Medellín?
The last few years have been ones of tremendous fertility from different fronts. Now, if the majority of producers, DJs, clubs, festivals and of course the public manage to ask themselves different questions, if they manage to bypass some identitarian questions, and if we manage to see beyond the economic bubble and techno-generic trends that have already begun to contaminate aspects of the creative processes, I think we would be close to reaching an important new chapter for this movement.
I was just thinking that, although it's still a very male-dominated scene, if you ask me about the five most prolific and consistent Colombian acts at the moment, objectively I would say that the first four are women: Lucrecia Dalt, Adriana López, Aleja Sanchez and Julianna. Isn't that ironic? Tell me in what other country does that happen? This speaks a little about our amazing complexity.
You open and close with an excerpt from the 1963 essay, Medellín, a solas contigo, or Medellín, alone with you. Can you tell us a bit about its significance and why you chose to include it?
Medellín is both a hell and a paradise that has far deeper problems than you see on Netflix. Precisely, this essay by Gonzalo Arango, who was the father of a very important counter-cultural movement called Nadaísmo ("Nothingism"), is the literary piece that best explains the relationship of love and hate that many friends and I have with Medellín. We are youngsters, we are mountain citizens that are trying to reach those mountains, we want to see what lies beyond. That's when the drum machine appears (in most cases cracked DAWs) as an escape, as the tool that's going to help us go beyond. The most curious thing is that at one point of the essay, Gonzalo Arango says that Medellín is like a small Detroit. Please tell that to Kodwo Eshun.
From the aesthetic point of view, about eight years ago I was fortunate enough to find Kraftwerk's "Die Stimme Der Energie." I was totally absorbed by its musicality despite being only a vocoder and me not knowing any German at all. I was so stunned that I researched what it was saying and it turned out to be a super transcendental poem in homage to energy. Since then I got fascinated with the cadence and ritualistic power that poems could have at the beginning of a set, as installers of a perfect mood for the trance that would follow.
Would you say that relocating to Barcelona has been a growing experience for you, artistically?
At the beginning of this year I went down to Nitsa to see Objekt or a Downwards showcase, I don't remember very well. The fact is that as I was analysing the atmosphere, I suddenly saw John Talabot at the end of the dance floor. I stared at him for about ten minutes, and it seemed absurd to me that no one approached him to say "thank you" or whatever, I found it unacceptable that they were not going to show some respect to a local hero. At the same time, I thought, "If this happened in Colombia they would be all over the artist, showing him love, taking pictures all night."
When I got home I understood that the problem was not the people of Barcelona, but me. That it was my inferiority complex (which is very Latin) that is always putting artists (especially Europeans) on a distant pedestal. And don't get me wrong, I think that admiration is a beautiful virtue that shows humbleness; that passion or viscerality is precisely the feature that better represents the Colombian raver, but I feel that sometimes, as usual with us, we go beyond the limits. BCN has helped me a lot to continue deconstructing myself as an artist.
What's next for you and Insurgentes?
Some other dates in Europe, and I will try to finally finish an endeavor I've been working on for more than a year, which might see the light at the end of 2019. With Insurgentes, we have about three or four EPs to press from Latin American artists in the forthcoming months. With Defuse, my friend with whom I run Insurgentes, we understood that the label is never going to give us the financial ease we need, much less in a cultural context like the Colombian one.
I think that financial issues on artists will be a big topic for discussion in the global circuit this year because the cake—big surprise—is being cut up and distributed between only a few. So we decided to go back to school, prepare ourselves more, and take other different jobs that don't absorb our souls so much, but that do give us some "economic" peace of mind to ensure that all the creative decisions we make at Insurgentes are independent and don't become contaminated. Seguimos resistiendo.