A Brief History of Peruvian Underground Electronic Music (90s-00s)

To speak of the origins of electronic music in Perú, we must go back to the appearance of the first electronic instruments that were focused on the academic level of the West. Not properly made in national territory, composers like Edgar Valcárcel or César Bolaños used laboratories for sonic experimentation in distant territories of the “first world”.

There is not a continuity of legacy or succession among the different generations of electronic music producers in Perú. Each generation responded to a context and a climate subjugated to the agitated changes of the South American “developing” country.

The generation of the 50s – 60s responded to the search for the new national identity, promoted by the military governments, that exalted everything that was local. Drawing from the Indigenismo Movement, the first works were forged that leaned towards the avant-garde rather than the use of electric instruments.

In Perú, as in many other countries, electronic music is usually synonymous with dance music or club music, excluding its more experimental branches. Perhaps we could find the first vestiges of club music in disco music, which was nothing more than a copy of what had been done in northern countries.

The most original expressions of electronic music would manifest themselves within the so-called “Movimiento Subterraneo” (Underground Mouvement) in the 80s, with the appearance of homemade synthesizers and rhythm boxes, which came at one of the most convulsive moments of the country. Between hyperinflation and terrorism, with their subterranean attitude acts like Circulo Interior and T de Cobre helped later generations initiate the path of underground music.

In the 90s, Neo-Psychedelia would be the elixir of some inner circles such as Crísalida Sónica. This was an active element with a strong presence in the so-called Lima Norte: a whole generation nourished by Post Rock and Intelligent Electronic Music, from which names like the multi-disciplinary Aloardi platform would flourish.

Edgar Valcárcel – Zampoña Sónica

Proudly from Puno, one of the highest cities in the Andes and remote from Lima in all senses, this composer was one of the pioneers of electronic music with nationalist elements. His passion and dedication led him to earn the recognition of masters such as Olivier Messiaen or Vladimir Ussachevsky.

‘Zampoña Sónica’ refers to the name given to the Peruvian antaras or pan flutes; instruments that probably originated in the coast of Peru in pre-hispanics times, but are still in use today in the Andes, especially in Puno.

T de cobre – No Nunca

From the ashes of Disidentes, a performance act in Berlin’s industrial scene led by Martin Ponce, would emerge this combo capable of combining industrial techno with the dance floor. Although they are considered part of the “Rock Subterraneo” (Peruvian Punk Rock), it is striking that they are one of the few groups that did not use guitar or bass.

With a drum machine on a constant beat, synthesizers passed through pedals and a megaphone on vocals, “No Nunca” is one of the jewels that best represents the experimentation within the precariousness of those stormy years. There is no official release from the band to this day.

Silvania – 1Belm: Autechre Mx

Although the existence and development of Silvania took place in Madrid, this duo was formed by Peruvians Mario Silvania (ex-Eutanasia) and Cocó Cielo. Influenced mostly by Avant-Garde Rock and Pop they fused this with shoegaze, a sound being referenced in the Iberian country during the middle of the 90s.

The restlessness and fascination that Cocó had for electronic instruments had its fruits in works that would be respected by true giants of the genre like Stereolab (whom they would open for), as well as Locust, Seefel and Autechre, who would be in charge of remixing the Peruvian’s composition “1Belm: Autechre Mx”.

Evamuss – Entretour

Under the alias of Evamuss, Christian Galarreta would publish a series of releases from the label-organization-collective ‘Aloardi’, which was also founded by him. A key figure in Lima’s experimental electronic music scene, his involvement in historical acts such as Crisálida Sónica, Evamuss left several sonic pieces that oscillate between post rock, ambient, and the more spiritualized psychedelia of the 90s.

Jardín – Pequeña Lulu

‘Maqui de Hierro’ is one of those strange demos, solitary in its genre. Today it’s legendary for flourishing in strange circumstances. This cassette, released in 2005, compiles some “takes” of the duo Jardín, whose music could also be classified as “rhythmic noise”, a somewhat unfair label in the face of the tremendous mystique that the band’s aura gives off.

Through the manipulation of sound combined with processing pedals and feedback, Jardín manages to generate true dissociative atmospheres, typical of hypnosis, which work perfectly with sculpted rhythmic loops and oscillators unfriendly to tonality.

Written by Herles Basurto, Peruvian artist and co-founder of Casalocasa. Track selections compiled by Herles Basurto and Mariano León, co-founder of Shipibo Konibo support label Behuá Icára. Buy Behuá Icára – Ritmos para Sanar Vol.2.

Photo credit: Edgar Valcárcel at Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center, Nueva York ’66 -’68 – taken by Alcides Lanza.

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