Maria Chavez has been stretching the limits of sound for over a decade. The Peruvian-born DJ, producer, and sound artist is a pioneer of abstract turntablism, a performance technique influenced by improvisation. Chavez’s work stretches into the realm of contemporary art, too; she’s hosted large-scale installations at the Brooklyn Museum, the LUFF Festival in Lausanne, Switzerland, and MoMA PS1. Perhaps most importantly, Chavez was a student of the late Pauline Oliveros, the revolutionary queer Tejana whose Deep Listening philosophy, which focuses on the healing, meditative qualities of sound, is fundamental to 20th century experimental music.
Chavez will bring her vision of the avant-garde to New York’s Good Room on May 5. To celebrate, we asked her to pick her five favorite DJs and producers of the moment, with a little perspective on why you should keep them on your radar.
Maria Chavez plays Brooklyn’s Good Room with Demdike Stare, Regis, Abby Echiverri, and Covert Joy on May 5. To purchase tickets, click here.
Mika Vainio (Finland)
“Mika Vainio was a respected sound artist and electronic composer in the international sound scene and I really admired his work. He had smart sensibilities when it came to placement, deconstructing a format of music and sound that became a major influence to us all.
It was completely heartbreaking to hear of his sudden passing a couple weeks ago. I didn’t know him but have many friends that knew and loved him. I only hear good things.
The timing of his passing coincided with the opening of my latest large-scale sound installation, String Room, 2017, which is currently on view at Co-Lab Projects in Austin.
I remember when I was experiencing the finished installation, how permanent it felt, while knowing full well what her life span would be. ‘How can I have full knowledge of the time span that a piece will exist yet still allow it to feel so permanent internally?’
It’s an abstract thought once one really starts to ruminate. Then I found out that Mika passed suddenly. I began to listen back to his work (he made so much!) but knew in my gut that he must have been excited about something new. He wasn’t finished. He couldn’t have been. And that’s what made me realize that the sound piece that instigated this abstract thought was actually a question of mortality – mortality of a person, mortality of one’s work, the paradox of what lives. Now I can’t get it out of my mind.
If you’re not familiar with the avant-garde, he will be a deep dive in, so just start at the beginning of his career with Panasonic or Pan Sonic, when he had to change the name. Once you get pass that stuff and into his solo works as Ø, as himself, you’ll be glad you did. And when you get to the end, because there is now an end, it will break your heart as much as it’s broken all of ours in the sound world.”
Peyton (Houston, Texas)
“One thing I love to do when I tour is pay attention to the local talents to hear what the city sounds like. I always ask to share a bill with some local artists because I feel that it’s more important to hear what people are doing locally rather than stay in my lame art/DJ/sound bubble.
I just played a gig in my hometown of Houston (Htine hold it Dine!) that was hosted by a new all gxrl arts collective called Damn Gxrl, ‘a group of Houston-based artists, musicians and community advocates committed to making local venues, exhibition spaces, and performance spaces safer, affirming and more inclusive for female, queer, trans and non-binary artists, musicians, and performers, as well as for event attendees and employees.’
Peyton opened the night and I was completely taken by her shy, sweet demeanor. Her songs are simple but with a smart lyrical slant that harkens back to the b-girl house music ballads of the 80s, 90s think Vanity 6, Nina Sky, Lumidee.
I always admire young gxrls that have a shy stage presence but are still on stage. She’s putting herself out there, trying and evolving with every show and new song. I really respect that. Her debut record Peace in the Midst of a Stormeve came out on Milky Wayv in November 2016.”
Chulita Vinyl Club (Austin, Texas)
“I’m always stumped on a reply when I’m asked what kind of music I DJ for events. It’s such a complicated question to answer. I’ve been a DJ since I was 16 years old, so I have accumulated 20 years of music and sounds from every genre, which has given me the freedom to DJ based on the vibe of the room rather than just sticking to a particular genre or style, that is unless I am being hired to play a particular sounding set. I can do it all and Chulita Vinyl Club in Austin is no different.
They’re vinyl-only (insert fist bump emoticon here), sometimes DJing more b-side disco tracks if it’s an upbeat night or pulling out the rare, hard-to-find Tejano jamz.
I think it’s brilliant when Tejano tracks get the balance of the accordion riffs with the polka beat just right. And these gxrls have an ear for that sound in combination with a seriously sick collection of vinyl.
I heard them DJ an art opening at MASS Gallery for the MASS Staff: HOUSE SHOW in Austin in early April then at the closing night of Fusebox Festival last week and loved every set. I will definitely be seeking their DJ nights out more when I return to ATX in the future.”
Star Amerasu (San Francisco, California)
“I met Star when we were both on the same bill for the Electric Eclectics Festival in the woods of Canada last year. She was the only other brown person in the festival so we became fast friends as one is wont to do.
Some of you may recognize her from her appearance on Gaycation on Vice. It’s an eye-opening conversation about her work with sex workers in SF.
I was so glad to catch her performance at the festival with Pale Eyes producer Ben McCarthy. She had such a great stage presence and the all-white Canadian audience immediately fell in love with her and I was right there with them.
She comes from the Bay Area scene with the Molly House Records/Swagger Like Us crew and recently toured Australia to promote her newly released album Rebecca.”
Babe Paradise & Pushing a Brain (Burlington, Vermont)
“Caroline DeCunzo, Harvey Bigman, and Jack Braunstein booked a lovely festival this past weekend called Pushing a Brain Uphill: An Experimental Show +Tell, which ‘exists to highlight and support femmes, queers, and trans folks in experimental music, and to broaden the Burlington experimental scene.’
This festival was so much fun. Burlington has a really cool scene and it’s all thanks to the PABU crew and the DJ ladies of Babe Paradise (Clair Macon & Caroline DeCunzo), whose mission is to ‘foster fun and safe spaces to dance and have fun in Burlington.’
I was lucky enough to share the Femme Techno Night with the ladies of Babe Paradise this past Friday along with Valerie Martino who came to the festival from Providence, RI. She played an awesome electronic set inside this warehouse full of large boxes of travel brochures. It was really great.”