New Juke Sounds From the Peyote-Filled Mexican Desert: Meet BCOTB

The rise of the Mexican electronic underground is now in full bloom. In the last 5 years or so, the amount of new artists focusing on alternative brands of electronic beats has grown exponentially, giving way to local interpretations of popular genres that couldn’t exist anywhere else. A lot of young Mexicans are becoming inspired by internet explorations that take them to British dubstep, garage, and grime, while others are finding an identity through American club (for most in the form of trap, and for the real diggers in Baltimore Club derivatives and Ghetto House). Regardless of the musical roots that serve as inspiration, this current generation of electronic musicians is clearly reappropriating foreign ideas to recreate a local electronic dance music concept for modern day Mexico.

Black Cats On The Bag or BCOTB, a name derived from a Breaking Bad inside joke, is a duo from the inland state of San Luis Potosí, known for its peyote-filled desert in the west, and its contrasting rain forest mountains in the east. Its members, Suriel and Javier, both native to the state’s capital, San Luis Potosí, have a friendship as long standing as their musical relationship. They toyed with the idea of making music together for over 10 years before they got this project off the ground, back when they were both busy in punk bands with friends, producing trance, listening to Groove Armada or the Chemical Brothers and going to raves. Suriel even moved to Mexico City on a sort of personal journey before heading back home to start his current path with BCOTB.

“We would get together sometimes and make tracks – something kind of hard for me, as I had I usually have a hard time showing my work and creating the chemistry needed to co-produce – but creativity has flown well between me and Javier. When I returned to San Luis in 2012 we committed ourselves to giving this project shape,” said Suriel.

In terms of sound, the black cats can only be described as juke-driven and R&B-inspired. But if you add layers of atmospheric deep house synths – much in the vein of the traditional Teklife / Rashad sound – you’ll understand their focus. The duo’s influences and introduction to the current wave of electronic music that’s moving the Mexican underground came in part from places like the UK and the US, but also from local producers that had started to pave the way at home.

We are in a key moment for Mexican electronic music.

“(…) Our approach to bass music started through Soundcloud. You know how it is on Soundcloud: we ran into a lot of projects with incredible proposals, most of them from Mexico, actually. I can name Finesse Records Crew [as a big influence], we became immersed in their sound, their artists, the local as well as their international roster. From there we started discovering a lot of artists like Aztek, Suasion, DJ Manny, Lakim, Sango, Aylu, DJ Rashad. Music with a lot of energy, prone to mixing hip-hop, with garage, R&B, and 2 step,” Javier told me.

With this arsenal of ideas in their minds, what Javier and Suriel started producing could be classified as a strain of deep housified, Juke-driven music, that becomes immersive through polyphonic synths and dynamic through 150-160 BPM drum kits meant for a rather sophisticated dance floor that is not available in their hometown. Like most towns that aren’t a giant city, San Luis is still developing both demographically and culturally as Suriel recognizes. “More than anything else, San Luis is our home. Besides that, the only thing I see is a desert because hardly anything happens here (…). In Monterrey and Mexico City it’s whole different story, the times we’ve played there we’ve done very well, people actually go for the music.”

There’s also more festivals than ever now, and that’s where borders are broken and lines begin to blur.

But although they’re separated by a desert’s length from the strongholds of their musical scene, these guys have no plans to move away from their quiet desert for now, giving some truth to the old saying that there’s no place like home (to produce incredible music). Plus, internet culture lets them remotely manage their projects and musical relations through the web, which is how they published a 9-piece LP with Finesse in Monterrey and a brand new, much shorter, “DWNSKRT” EP with Veracruz juke label Ten Toes Turbo. This is not to mention the rest of their plans for 2015, which all involve work with local or Latin american artists such as 1OO1O, Adrian Be, and Argentinian footwork genius Aylu.

Peyote cacti in San Luis Potosí desert
Read more

BCOTB is a good example of what the third generation of post-bass influenced musicians look like in Mexico. Many of their references already lie in local artists who started developing a style that transmutes its original inspiration into a very particular identity and aesthetic. Javier and Suriel are quickly catching on to this phenomenon in their very local POV, considering NAAFI as one of the leading projects creating a strong local identity for Mexican electronic music.

“Artists here don’t try to fit themselves into a single genres anymore, and that’s quite interesting. This has displayed many ways of thinking and listening to music in Mexico. I feel we are in a key moment for mexican electronic music because we’re making things that are now worthy of mention. There’s also more festivals than ever now, with very big artists, from different corners of electronic music and that’s where borders are broken and lines begin to blur,” said Javier.

With this background in mind, Black Cats On The Bag has prepared this exclusive mixtape for us. In this mix, the guys are trying to sum up their influences through a selection of original and favorite tracks, where the presence of juke, post dubstep, trap can be felt, as well as the heavy use of 808s and bass driven atmospheres.