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Liam Murphy

December 4, 2021

Tracks in this feature

Tracks in this release

A unique wave of excitement can come over you when you search through the reams of independent electronic music released over the the last decade or so. Scrolling through the almost infinite catalogue of artists and labels that have presented thoughtful and passionately-made projects is enough to fill your heart with joy. It can be difficult in this age of late capitalism to hold true to the full realisation of an artistic vision unless some form of financial restitution follows, but to be able to push a meaningful and carefully created piece of art out there to a community that welcomes it with open arms and inquisitive minds always ensures a priceless experience.
There is simply so much to show as a result of the collective hard work of a supportive music community. There are life-changing, identity-affirming experiences hidden behind the square JPGs of your Bandcamp collection. There are genuine reasons to persist and struggle through this often turbulent life slotted within the cardboard sleeves of your vinyls and the lovingly crafted cases of your cassettes. Though the demographic of artists and creators being referred to may feel vague, those who are part of these welcoming and artistically experimental communities will know all too well that them and their peers’ efforts are deserving of praise. There are labels delighting listeners with thought-provoking music on an eye-wateringly frequent basis. There are graphic artists working very hard to realise visual interpretations of the most abstract and avant-garde creations. There are listeners spending hard earned money to ensure that the artist can find some sort of financial solace from their incredible efforts. There are the artists themselves as well, no concept too far-fetched, no sonic stone unturned.

A shot from Skeleton Lipstick's set

While the wealth of independent electronic music and the existence of creative communities are worth celebrating, both creator and consumer must always hold true to a few vital ideals. One such ideal is international inclusivity. Electronic music may be fairly impervious to the pitfalls of heavily manufactured mainstream output and its general mundanity, but it can be very hard to escape the grip of americanisation. The bias toward and general focus on North America can be even more difficult to avoid when a critique of consumer capitalism is one of the subjects often explored in the genre of music you create. Any insight into the hard work of communities and artists elsewhere should be welcomed and celebrated. This is exactly what happened in the case of Latin All-Stars Festival, a festival that took place towards the end of January.

The idea of a festival celebrating the wealth of talent that resides in or hales from Latin America had existed in the mind of its creators since before Covid-19. Inspired by the Afro-Cuban All Stars, that drew some of the best artists in Cuba into one project, owner of Virtual Soundsystem Records Life2979 joined alongside record labels such as No Problema Tapes, Vaporwave Tapes Brasil, ATMO and VILL4IN, and began approaching potential acts. The fruits of their labour are the 100+ artists that happily signed up to perform.

The original concept had been imagined as a live event. However, as travel and music venues shut down around the world, its likelihood dwindled significantly. This unwelcome situation may well have been the fatal blow to such an idea if those behind it had not been part of such a fantastic and knowledgable community. ‘It is one based very strongly on digital exchange’, a representative of No Problema Tapes explained. Due to this, the idea was able to continue existing and also flourish as a virtual event. The online nature of it allowed the artists invited to prerecord sets and visuals, but also enabled the event to become more of a showcase to audiences around the world. ‘We need people to know that music is strong in Latin America,’ said Andr0ider, a dark ambient artist who played into early Sunday morning. ‘Music from here has always been fantastic, from the Bossa Nova of Brazil to the more recent and very popular Latin trap and hip-hop movements. I believe that our experimental electronic scene should be held in the same regard, and Latin All-Stars is proof of that.’

The 3-day festival boasted an incredible dynamic of music from across the Latin countries and beyond, giving a significant platform to more experimental artists. Lost Computer was one such act. The Mexico-based artist treated viewers to a juddered and slightly uncanny experience, as adverts and shaky instrumentation played out in a loop. The feeling of nostalgia weighed heavy on both the visual and audio aspects of the set, but the overarching sensation was one of detachment. Strange and defunct clips ripped from their original context.

A similar experience was delivered at the eerie 4am slot by the artist クリチバの地下鉄. Alike in part due to strange visuals and obscure music, the set consisted of promotional clips and archive footage layered and phased on top of each other. All the while, manipulated and pitch-shifted sounds swirled in a complex and unclear soundscape.

An overtly dark performance came in the form of music and visual artist Andr0ider’s set, disorientating choruses of bells and drawling strings crooned into an uncertain atmosphere. As the performance continued, one could find the artist delving into the very depths of sound, with strange creaks and screeches careering upwards as if from undersea trench. An overlay HUD flickered and an insignia rotated, resembling CCTV output from Alien. Horror 666’s set (with visuals from JK Cinema and Shadow Fuckface) explored artefacts of internet folklore and tutorials on Instrumental Communication over menacing music and off-kilter samples.

The event was also full of energetic acts. Ezhak kicked off proceedings with pounding kick drums hitting throughout constantly phasing and echoing instrumentals. The visuals gave an insight into a trip around his native Buenos Aires. Brazilian act Pop Up! delighted early festival viewers with hugely danceable rhythms. With no drop in momentum as both artists rifled through some seriously infectious tracks, these acts ensured that Latin All-Stars Festival began with a bang. Skule Toyama kept viewers throughout the world moving with a really fun set, blending tunes by the likes of Earth, Wind and Fire and Daft Punk seamlessly and having a genuinely good time doing it.

In the spirit of inclusivity, and to further add to the impressive mesh of styles presented, special guests from other parts of the world also joined the roster. Fornax Void took the 7:30pm slot on Saturday. The performance consisted of beautifully rendered landscapes and scenes. From an intricately detailed city we were transported high atop a shrouded mountain, then to a series of creeping shots and pans through liminal office spaces and streets. To be presented with such an all-encompassing experience was a shock, but the elegance of the instrumentation soothed the viewer into an engaged hypnosis. Vaporwave royalty 猫 シ Corp made an appearance, delivering a set of unforgettable magnitude freed by a lack of percussion, in which natural sounds like birdsong and babbling water were aligned with sweeping pads and euphoric ambience.

For the best part of three days, you couldn’t make your way into the world of the festival without being rewarded by some sort of interesting performance. And more often than not, you were greeted by an artist that may not be getting the international recognition they deserve. Between these sets, the team interspersed old Latin American commercials. A visual experience familiar to everyone watching, but one that would hit that little bit more close to home for those that grew up with those same adverts.

The festival was a resounding success, with each and every contributor ensuring that Latin All-Stars was an unforgettable event. The virtual festivals that have sprung up, especially following the pandemic, have been a much-needed reminder of the welcoming communities that delight in thought-provoking music and art. But more than just supplying viewers around the world with an incredible experience, it feels as though the magnitude of this festival may have shifted people’s understanding of Latin American countries and their positioning in the Vaporwave movement and even the wider electronic music community. The work of labels like Vaporwave Tapes Brazil and ATMO are well-known in the right circles, but to see the end result of a collaboration between these labels helps to cement in peoples’ minds the impressive talent that calls Latin America home.

The plan is to make it a regular occurrence. A showcase where artists from Argentina, Peru, Mexico and other countries from this part of the world can celebrate where they come from and their place in the music world. There is no doubt that, after the incredible experience of the first event, fans around the world are eagerly awaiting the next opportunity to celebrate the talent and artistic prowess of Latin America.

Follow Latin All Stars on Twitter

Watch the Latin All-Stars Festival sets here