Music collective ENSAMBLE has been filling Mexican nightlife with quality left-field electronica for almost two years now, thanks to their kickass parties and offbeat musical vision. Their events feature some of the most daring producers and DJs from Mexico City and beyond. As a logical progression of their success, they also created a netlabel to share the crew’s notable releases, through which they dropped their very first compilation. With 16 songs, Tabula Rasa Volumen Uno spans many of the collective’s affiliates and their diverse sounds, all united by a thirst for experimentation.
Opening Tabula Rasa is a dense but elegant ambient track by José Soberanes titled “Tender.” It’s a gorgeous juxtaposition of textures and delicate, opaque mallet sounds. Guadalajaran digital artist Turning Torso contributes with a track that’s weird, but not weird enough to keep us from dancing. “Madeja” is adorned with skittering beats and his signature guitar work, as it surfs between light and shadow. On the other hand, Jiony‘s “Doce Cuartos” flirts with funky trip hop and ambient to great success. The bouncy bass line and synths play with whispery female vocals over a dubby but flavorful beat.
AntiGravity and Margari’s Kid, as well as Paperworks, wear their UK influences on their sleeves here. The former two made a track called “Belong” that would make Burial proud, complete with pitched down R&B vocal samples and airy static. Meanwhile, Paperworks plays with UKG more candidly on “Auria,” coloring the skipping beat with synth landscapes and wobbly bass. While we’re still talking about British influences, Me & Myself‘s “Aries” stands out, as it filters an undoubtedly grime influence with industrial underpinnings. Its piano strokes, string synths, and soaring choral samples up the drama tenfold.
“Transparent Chains” is Wasted Fates‘ bizarre take on footwork and hardcore, which starts out with restless energy but ends in hollow synth chords and random bleeps. Also outlandish in the best of ways is “Regresa,” Siete Catorce‘s monster experiment. He grabs Brazilian rhythms and blends them with dubstep, a little dembow, a pinch of cumbia, and a whole lot of WTF. A-rp gives hip-hop a shot with “Rompe.” Of course, this is a brand of disjointed, evil hip-hop, shrouded in distortion and inscrutable vocals.
Fear not; there’s techno here too. System Error‘s “Such a View (Inside the Void)” is a techno rollercoaster, embarking a journey that’s so lengthy it could become a whole EP. It shuffles between abstraction and melodicism, sampling dialogue from the movie Kids all the while. No Light confronts the genre more aggressively on “Fosfenos,” with machine-gun kick drums and synth fills that reference trance. It’s overwhelming, but highly addictive. Oddly, Sol Los‘ “Foundries” almost sounds like a sequel to No Light’s track, with a similar beat, but one loaded with white noise and dissonance that leaves you feeling paranoid.
Tabula Rasa Volumen Uno is both proof of ENSAMBLE’s spot-on curatorial power, and a hopeful image of the diverse and envelope-pushing Mexican electronic scene. It’s the crew’s second anniversary, but we’re the ones receiving the gift – a literal gift, since it’s a free download.
Along with the compilation, they’re also celebrating with an event in Mexico City called JAM005. The lineup features some of the producers on the compilation, including Siete Catorce, No Light, Paperworks, and Wasted Fates. Bristol’s Pinch and DF’s A Secret System of Caves and Conduits are set to appear as well. Purchase tickets for the January 30 celebration here. Happy anniversary, ENSAMBLE!