Label Love #103: Bridging Gaps with Insurgentes and TraTraTrax
Medellín label Insurgentes and its younger sister TraTraTrax are making ‘ambient pa’ la mente hasta breaks pa’l culo’ (ambient for the mind and breaks for the ass).
With a catalogue composed almost exclusively of artists hailing from Latin America, yet drafting in mainstays of the UK club scene for remix duties, labelheads Verraco, DJ Lomalinda and Nyksan are bridging the gaps in the global electronic music circuit through music and manifesto.
Whilst the output of Insurgentes is branded as ‘braindance’ – a term first coined about two decades ago to describe the leftfield electronica associated with Aphex Twin’s Rephlex imprint – the focus of TraTraTrax lies in the lower ends.
Releases fuse together the syncopated rhythms native to the label’s homeland, and the bass-driven sound closely associated with the UK underground, firmly situating the relatively youthful label as a significant player in the ever-increasing prevalence of dembow mutations in today’s DJ sets and club releases.
Additional to the idiosyncrasy of both labels’ sound, they also set themselves apart with a well-documented manifesto which details their conceptual raison d’être. Accompanying each release is a written reminder of the labels’ multifaceted objectives: to not only amplify the voices and shine a light on the talent hailing from the region, but also to promote conversations and raise awareness of the global club music politics that often see Latin American artists overlooked or disregarded. These intentions manifest themselves not only in text and music, but in workshops that tackle themes such as decolonising the dancefloor and feminism & nightlife.
Whilst its inception in 2017 stemmed from Verraco’s desire to cultivate a space to release his hi-definition acid-infused electro and braindance, Insurgentes has since seen fourteen releases, compiling a catalogue of seven Latin American artists including Tomás Urquieta and The Baker and amassing a loyal following from across the globe. Verraco now runs it alongside long-time friend and fellow Medellín resident, DJ Lomalinda.
Fast-forward four years and a hyper, irreverent younger sister is born. TraTraTrax showcases music produced by Latin American artists such as Bitter Babe, Nick León and Nicola Cruz, remixed by artists on the other side of the world – the likes of Simo Cell, Florentino and Ehua – in an attempt to pay homage to the bass-heavy sounds that have served as their reference points. ‘We’re fusing together ‘the dembow we grew up with and the bass and techno that always seduced us’ Verraco affirms.
But within this exchange, there are a few things that aren’t up for debate. ‘We are dealing with a rhythm that we feel is ours or close to us and that makes us feel confident. In the sense that no European or gringo is going to come and tell us how to do dembow, you know? And if they have the audacity to do it, we would slap them for sure jeje’.
TraTraTrax also sees a Bogotá-born, London-based DJ and producer join the party – Nyksan – who is also in charge of curating parties of his own. October last year saw a line-up of label affiliates and friends take to London’s Venue MOT in a star-studded showcase made possible by Nyksan’s savvy administrative, logistic and financial skills. ‘I’m not so good with numbers’ Verraco reflects, ‘maybe a bit better with words… but the label is really a lot more people. We like to think of ourselves as an interdisciplinary network’.
It’s impossible to mistake the enthusiasm with which he speaks about the labels’ activity, and with the meticulous curation of a collective twenty releases on top of an NTS show and label showcases unfolding around the world, the proof is in the pudding. When reflecting on their success, there’s one thing that stands out to Verraco, more important that amount of records sold: that they represent a place of belonging and identification for their local audiences, a space to celebrate so-called ‘sonic impurity’.
Sticking closely to the mantra which bolstered the GHE20GOTH1K club nights in the days of their fertility: ‘bailar es política’ (dancing is political), Insurgentes/ TraTraTrax serve as a textbook example of the community that record labels can cultivate, and a lesson on bridging hemispheric gaps.
‘No European or gringo is going to come and tell us how to do dembow, you know?’
Verraco – any final words?
‘Shout out Pedro Ajo who does much of the art direction. Luisa Uribe, a friend who works with feminist collectives here but who helps us a lot on issues of gender and decoloniality. Plus all the close network of artists like Seph, who even masters all the TraTraTrax catalog. Also shouts to Laura Bitter Babe, Nick León, Nicola, Julián, Tomás Urquieta, Dresden y toda la banda (all the gang). With Insurgentes we will soon make a very important announcement that we are very excited about. It will be a new big and different step beyond releasing music. We will still focus this year on releasing only full-length albums. With TraTraTrax we have another batch of belters coming, loaded with a lot of latin low end.’