There’s no particular sound to experimental music – the term “experimental” is definitely more of a descriptor more than a concrete genre label – but there are common elements to all experimental music, whether it’s in electronic music, reggaeton, or rock. So it’s no surprise that Latin America has been home to sound experimentalists for many years. Pre-Columbian cultures used tonalities, instruments, and textures that may seem noisy to our ears now, and much of it was incorporated into early and mid-20th century composition styles throughout the region. And of course, the rise of home recording studios and Internet access has made it possible for avant-garde music to spread and become more ubiquitous.
Below we give you a list of 12 labels currently giving us some of the most innovative music around. The sounds here range from dancefloor-ready beats to total annihilating noise. There’s sure to be something here to intrigue you and perhaps even give you a thrill you never expected to feel.
Founded in 2009 in Michoacán, México, Bifronte has become a haven for experimentalists all over the world. You can find everything from Peruvian IDM to minimalist Mexican laptop music from the likes of Minadedrama, Rolando Apolo, Fucked Up Laptop, and Aloysius Acker. Shying away from sound art and more academic experimental music, Bifronte’s roster occasionally includes acts who practice more conventional styles, like nu cumbia or Amazonian techno.
El Cuarto Elástico
Recent breakthrough releases from the likes of Boundary and Broken Text confirm that the Dominican Republic’s El Cuarto Elástico is becoming a label to watch. Most of the label’s releases share a minimalist, youthful quality, thanks to the use of Casio keyboards, and that attitude is often reflected in the artwork. ECE prove that experimental music can be playful too.
Started by Mexico City’s Daniel Castrejón in 2006 as a DIY tape label for local acts, Umor Rex soft-rebooted in 2011 for larger scale releases, and a roster of genre-defying artists hailing from Chicago to Berlin to Tehran. Their artists flirt with improv electronics, ambient, techno-based sound art, and ineffably beautiful soundscapes, contributing to one of the strongest catalogs on this list.
Few labels embrace their reputation of making “horrible noise” so proudly. Founded by noise lifer Sergio Sanchez in Mexico City, Ruido Horrible has focused on the most impenetrable and chaotic music one can make, highlighting harsh Latinx acts like Armenia, Cornucopia, and his own projects Heraldos Negros and Amniosis.
When it comes to being involved in music on all fronts, Luis Alvarado stands in his own category. The Peruvian jack-of-all-trades – who holds many roles as a musician, promoter, journalist and beyond – applies the same ethics to his record label Buh, releasing everything from archival avant-garde music from Latin America, to forgotten noise acts of the 90s, to newer psych rock bands such as Sexores and Tajak.
El Canzancio Records
Most of El Canzancio’s catalog can be described as “searing blasts of noise,” but there’s more to the label than meets the ear. With a few different releases, they have raised awareness around social justice issues like violence in the label’s home country of Colombia, as well as the exploitation of the Amazonian rainforest.
This Mexico City label has been around since 2016 and only has three titles to its name, but what they lack in quantity and longevity, they make up for in quality. Featuring elegant, minimalistic artwork and adventurous electronics that are more beautiful than groundbreaking, Sueño reflects the label’s name in aesthetic and sound.
No Problema Tapes
Hailing from Chile, the cassette label No Problema delivers a steady supply of music that lands somewhere between dream pop, drone, vaporwave, and ambient. There’s a nebulous vibe to all of their releases, which lift you up as you let your thoughts drift.
Dealer of Illusions
Dealer of Illusions reaches to the farthest borders of club music, where genre lines blur and dissonance is desired. Founded in 2017 in Mexico, DOI builds a united atmosphere between their releases, thanks to the stark, grainy black-and-white art, which is as attention-grabbing as the sounds of acts like Rizoma, DJ Chedraui, and 3BO.
With next-generation club music for those unsatisfied with what’s out there, this Mexican label offers something that might seem familiar at first, but can lead to strange and unexpected places. Fusion is key for Lowers, with Mock the Zuma, Crocat, Wyno, and Fonobisa giving us irresistible beats along with their demented experiments.
With Wilder González Agreda at the forefront, Lima’s Superspace Records provides a wide spectrum of sounds, from formal academic compositions to improv, noise, and even folk sung in Quechua. Like most of Peru’s experimental music scene, some of the releases come with a heavy dose of shoegaze and space rock influences.
Featuring one of the most diverse rosters for labels at their scale, Mexico City’s Sonido Inconsciente welcomes everything from banger dealers MΔTΣ and System Error to noise enthusiasts like Vegan Cannibal and Les Temps Barbares. They still manage to offer something completely unique, like Manitas Nerviosas’ dark synth pop.