Not every DJ has been called upon to ditch the mixer for a book of poems, but when times are tough, you improvise. Strapped for a more traditional club venue, Buenos Aires collective AGVA found itself hosting a recent party featuring Fvtvra DJ tttomi in a cultural center best known for poetry readings. Reports came in that law enforcement was nearby, so the team quickly sprang into action – switching on the overhead lights, switching off the music, and hustling tttomi into a different kind of nightlife performance entirely. When the officials did enter the venue, the DJ was reading aloud from a book of poetry. Within five minutes, the would-be killjoys had departed. “We hit ‘play’ on the next track and the party continued,” the collective wrote to Remezcla.
Stories like these are not uncommon in Buenos Aires, where nightlife regulations have never fully relaxed after 2016’s year-long ban on electronic music events, a misguided reaction by Mauricio Macri’s conservative presidential administration to the five drug-related deaths at that year’s Time Warp Festival. Even after the total ban on larger events was lifted, party promoters still find themselves reckoning with a draconian permit system that makes electronic music events — or in some cases echoing New York’s happily deceased cabaret laws, events involving dancing — impossible outside of larger club settings, putting more experimental nightlife projects at an extreme disadvantage.
But don’t think that means that Buenos Aires has stopped pushing the envelope when it comes to new sounds. Several collectives have stepped it up, making sure that there are still spaces for people to dance who thrill to similar soundscapes. We spoke to four groups who have surfed the often-challenging waters of Buenos Aires clubland, and thrived long enough to drop the compilation EP.
Core members: Skay Parnes, Jonas Sampaoli, El Plvybxy, Sückie, Slav Zimm, and Defensa
Sounds like: S ü c k i e x “QSP”
Per that poetry book incident, AGVA promoters see resourcefulness as a key part of what they do as event organizers, and that has little to do with whether or not any particular electronic festival ban has been lifted. “The political situation in Argentina is really difficult and that complicates everything,” the collective writes to Remezcla. “Beyond that law, developing nighttime events was never easy.” The group was founded by Skay Parnes and Jonas Sampaoli at a moment when the two were feeling the need to “broaden the sonic palette of the porteña night,” the collective says. It has grown with the addition of similarly motivated producers, despite regulations that seek to stall nightlife projects outside the monied larger clubs.
“We try to do events every one or two months, although that always varies because almost all the places in which we do parties get shut down or have legal problems,” AGVA writes. “That’s how it is in the ‘under’ here, or whatever you want to call it.”
In their perseverance, they are in good company. The party certainly thrills to some of the same notes as some of the other club collectives in their city — HiedraH and TRRUENO explore nearby galaxies of reggaeton-inflected raver beats, as do many South American producers creating midnight cyborg sound collages. A fleshed-out example of AGVA’s lights-out club tracks can be found in its release of collective member El Plyvbxy’s Mineral EP, full of horror movie whisper commands, foot stomping industrial, and robotized cathedral bells. Another highlight of its career as a netlabel has been AGVA’s first compilation, which dropped in late 2016 and opens with a cold-hearted Natalie Portman Closer sample. The lineup features chilly, dembow-blessed club tracks from collective members as well as a larger community of guest artists united by audio filaments, including King Doudou and TRRUENO co-founder Anakta.
For its IRL events, the collective looks to attract those in search of new sounds and those who just need that hookup for their rave release. “Our public is very broad, partly made up of young people in the search for new sounds and concepts,” the collective says. “But also by people who are simply looking to liberate themselves via dance.”
Core members: Nahuel Colazo, Ybán López Ratto, Moro, Braian, Desdel Barro, Retumb4, Aggromance, Brea, and art director Jusomor
Sounds like: “Mordida do Macaco” x HiedraH
Years ago, three film students wanted to dance. They went out from Monday to Sunday, looking to stay the deleterious effects of a harsh world on their queer bodies by moving until they felt like they had paralyzed the forces of bad. Eventually they refined their needs. They wanted a place where the politics of music could be placed front and center — without dropping the beat, of course. Melody Tayhana, Nahuel Colazo, and Ybán López Ratto started throwing parties in living rooms, then underground clubs, then spaces that actually passed the government’s stringent rules about where dancing can and cannot take place. (“HiedraH’s survival strategy was to leave the freedoms of clandestine spaces to enter more legal commercial spaces,” as López puts it. The decision is a source of ongoing conversation in the group.)
Throughout this process, they built what they call “el público bicha,” people who find like-minded emancipation on the dance floor. Eventually Tayhana landed a spot in the NAAFI collective and on international tours. HiedraH stayed in Buenos Aires, a party that refuses to shift focus away from its country’s struggles. Today, the event has a two-pronged reputation. On one hand, the members of HiedraH are recognized for their aggressive nocturnal soundtracks, spiked with political speeches, indigenous musical traditions, and robotized reggaeton. The HiedraH beat is about to get its own spotlight, a compilation of Latin American producers from Chile’s Alpha S to Brazil’s Pininga whose assembly and birth has taken years. Look for its international reputation to ratchet up a notch or two in the months to come.
But more importantly to the collective’s members, those who started off as dancers have picked up some of the responsibilities of community political leaders. HiedraH is part of a coalition of queer groups that crash the yearly Pride parade (read its manifesto here). They organize party caravans and protest dance parties in the street.
Ask HiedraH for a song that encapsulates the collective and they will give you “Mordida do Macaco,” a track that Tayhana, Aggromance, Lechuga Zafiro, and Braian composed during Buenos Aires’ turbulent summer, when the city erupted in protest against President Macri’s proposed labor reforms that would attack labor rights in a country that has traditionally been a union stronghold. Returning from the conflicts between law enforcement and citizenry, the crew put together this palpably furious, eminently danceable track that will sound great coming out of their speakers at 4 a.m. — real bicha hours. The single’s art commemorates one of their heroes, an unmasked Argentine launching a homemade mortar at riot cops. HiedraH is a party where one loses oneself, but never forgets.
HiedraH believes that, though all nightlife is political, not all of it is radical. Constructing a forward-thinking motion with HiedraH, however, is of the utmost importance. López Ratto says, “It’s a place to protect yourself and be able to listen to the music that we felt was ours.”
Core members: Astrosuka, QEEI, Bungalovv, Bosque Sin Árboles, Tatiana Cuoco aka #VIVAS, Volll, Agustin Genoud, Regina Cei, and Flor Kurch
Sounds like: “Sudaca Rave” x Bosque Sin Arboles
TRRUENO was born a few years back when a group of producers whose sounds fell outside the mainstream of club music reasoned that they could expand their reach if they banded together on one platform. The collective now runs a netlabel rich with twisted dembow chrome club tracks, and throws regular parties and noise events. In an email to Remezcla, they recounted the group’s origin story. “TRRUENO has no hierarchy,” they write. “It works closer to an anarchic amoeba that adapts to whatever comes along in order to survive.”
This flexibility has included forming alliances with non-nightlife entities to expand their network, and sharing space with people from other branches of Buenos Aires art. The group put together a month-long event series at the city’s Center of Sound Art, and participated in programming at the Casa Tomada exhibition of the Casa Nacional del Bicentenario, as well as collaborations with other Buenos Aires cultural centers.
Given the local complications involved in throwing events featuring their brand of crashing, aggressive dance music, it’s a good thing they take pride in being adaptable. “A thousand times, we’ve heard comments in venues like, ‘No one can be dancing if the inspectors come,’” recalls the collective. Buenos Aires’ club regulations have affected the type of programming that TRRUENO orchestrates on a structural level — the group has even paired with live bands in an attempt to sidestep regulations surrounding solely electronic music events. “The law doesn’t even think about giving space to a ‘minority’ with projects that don’t involve having a club and selling alcohol,” they say. “Many places close, or stay in the shadow of the bigger clubs that don’t just reserve the right to refuse entry to people, but also to new proposals.”
They are another group that has experimented in the reclamation of public space, as much out of lack of other venue options as for any other reason. Asked for one of the club’s most memorable moments, the collective talks about a TRRUENO event that took place on a Palermo sidewalk featuring Astrosuka, Bungalovv, Ro Stambuk, and the debut of Los Odios — the latter being a snarling noise project of sound artist Agustin Genoud that employs a beatbox and a microphone, heavy metal deconstructed. “It was too savage for the good neighbors of Palermo,” remembers the collective. The cops arrived in the middle of Genoud’s set. In the group, it is a source of pride that he was able to finish his debut performance (without legal consequences) and TRRUENO was able to move indoors to a nearby bar for the rest of the lineup. Their determination that everyone play reflects the significance that a party can have for those that have built a community around just such an opportunity to gather.
Core members: Ani Castoldi, Lolo Anzoátegui, Lucho Lasca, Caro Castoldi, Laura Cacherosky, and Deejay Traviesa
Sounds like: “Vos Sos Dios” x Rumanians
The veteran party people on this list linked up in an earlier era, at a time when the clubland options were slim in their neighborhood. Back then, Buenos Aires’ historic San Telmo was an area of cobblestone streets and traditional milongas — a dream for tourists, a beautiful place to live, but not exactly cutting-edge. San Telmo residents Ani Castoldi and Lolo Anzoátegui wanted a place to go to hear new music projects. So they made one themselves, a gathering that for years took place on a weekly basis, on Thursday nights.
To house their project, the team chose Gong, a mirrored-wall, 1970s-era disco that has roots dating back to its start as a 1930s jazz club. These storied surroundings proved to be the perfect spot for the group’s modern day electronic voyages, and the party still takes place in Gong to this day. Nowadays, once or twice a month DJs dole out sets that ricochet in between house and funk for Dengue Dancing’s denizens, who Castoldi and Anzoátegui classified for Remezcla as “exigent dancers.”
Many years after its inception, the party remains an intimate place to mingle, a gathering with a queer atmosphere that was once dubbed “hetero-friendly.” Simply-drawn pop culture mashup flyers feature Marvin the Martin singing Lykke Li songs, Chester Cheetah giving you Miley Cyrus. Björk has come through for a dancefloor moment, and promoters fondly remember the time that Ryan McNamara hosted a dance contest. Dengue also formed its own music label many years back, putting out tracks that range from the post-punk of YiLet to the twirl-friendly electro stylings of resident Ani’s disco arabesque project Rumanians and Buenos Aires duo Carisma.
If the politics of Dengue Dancing aren’t overwhelming, it’s because Castoldi and Anzoátegui believe that nightlife’s social import is implicit, a given. “Partying is political because it creates social spheres,” they write to Remezcla. “In Buenos Aires, parties always reflect the distinct evolutions of the underground.” They say Dengue Dancing’s intimate nature has shielded it from harsh restrictions — but only partially. “Dengue has always been a small party, but even so, it has suffered from the terrifying erosion that the government creates.”