If you browse Mondragón’s catalog, you’ll find 2016’s Glas, a lush and glitchy electronic record, and 2017’s Presentimiento, which features guitars that drift in and out of focus, at times suggesting melodies, at others kinetic riffs, and drums in addition to electronic soundscapes. As if this wasn’t enough, project founder Edgar Mondragón just released Alba, a new EP of ambient tracks under his own name. On all three projects, Mondragón showcases a lucid, dream-like mood – precious yet ephemeral – in pursuit of a cinematic experience. Mondragón makes music that sends your mind adrift, while subtly challenging your ears.
Edgar Mondragón’s story is one of passion above all. Passion has enabled him to form a band and manage a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the recording and pressing of their debut album, as well as to play shows in Mexico and U.S., including an upcoming appearance at SXSW this year. Most importantly, this passion has resonated with fans from every corner of the Mexican music scene.
“One time we played with [rappers] Tino El Pingüino and Max Chinasky,” says Edgar when we met at his apartment one evening. “The venue was packed, and we got really nervous. We went up there and gave our all and had a great response. I love playing live and when I’m up there I love giving my all, and when you do that, your vibe can come through, that attitude and sincerity can work in your favor.”
His first experience was playing bass in a cover band, but he “got fed up and decided to make my own music.” Discovering Ableton Live, he uploaded his demos to SoundCloud with some encouragement from his friends; soon he was being invited to play live. But he turned them down because he didn’t know how to perform yet. “The only thing that occurred to me was to go onstage with my computer and press play, and I was not going to do that,” he says. Afterwards, he asked two of his former cover bandmates, Jimena Garfias and Erik López, to help him transition the project to a live setting. After one show, Luis López approached them about drumming for the group. “He’s a hard-hitting drummer, so we increased the volume and distortion. It sounded great so we thought about making a record as a band.”
The first single from that album, “Repite,” showcased Mondragón’s new sound. “There’s a reason ‘Repite’ is in the middle of the tracklist,” says Edgar. The preceding songs were developed from his previous material, replacing synths and drum machines with guitars and drums. “At first, none of our ideas gelled together; we thought we didn’t have [good] chemistry. Then someone suggested using a single loop from any song and writing on top of that, so we took the bassline from [Glas’] “Repite el Nombre Cien Veces” and we jammed on top. That’s how the rest of the album was written.”
For the recording of Presentimiento, the band turned to crowdfunding. “I was doubtful we would convince people to give their money to us. In the end, we didn’t have anything to lose and we put our trust in the music.” By the end of their campaign, their goal had been met and exceeded. “We sent records to Australia, France, Poland, to people who somehow ended up there. It was a ton of work, but it was worth it. It was a reality check. If you’re honest, people will listen to the music and will care, they see the effort you make to do what you do – that worked for people who didn’t know us.”
Although this tells the story of a bright future, there’s a chance the end of the band – in its current form – is near. Important lineup changes could happen before the year is out, which explains why Edgar decided to release Alba and play last year’s Mutek.MX festival as a solo act. “I know it’s going to end; I’m not sure if it will end soon or in seven years after three more albums. But I see myself working on film scores for 40 or 50 years, so this release is me somehow setting up for that kind of work.”
Whatever form his music takes, Edgar – by himself or collaborating with others – has given us music that pushes the envelope and invites the listener to drift into a new space. This is only the beginning for an artist who combines emotion with sonic explorations, and listeners who follow his new adventures will be rewarded.
Edgar Mondragón’s Alba EP is out now.