Síntomas de techno : Ondas electrónicas subterráneas desde Perú (1985-1991)
Symptoms of techno:
Underground electronic waves from Peru (1985-1991)
This compilation presents for the first time various underground techno groups and projects that emerged in Lima in the mid-1980s. Projects such as Disidentes, Paisaje Electrónico, T de Cobre, Meine Katze Und Ich, El Sueño de Alí, Cuerpos del Deseo, Círculo Interior, Ensamble and Reacción were responsible for introducing styles such as techno-pop, EBM, industrial and minimal synth in Peru. Coinciding with the explosion of punk in Lima and the appearance of the so-called Rock Subterráneo [underground rock], these techno groups shared the same DIY spirit, performing in many punk concerts and even creating their own fanzines, and, above all, opening a space for other types of sonic experiences. Meine Katze Und Ich, El Sueño de Alí and Paisaje Electrónico were also the parallel projects of the members of Narcosis, the iconic punk band, one of the founders of Rock Subterráneo.
Disidentes and T de Cobre brought extreme sounds to local electronics: viscerality, mechanical rhythms and the use of Casiotones or synthesizers, which resulted in an atypical sound that, in turn, portrayed a critical time in Peru, and which has made them an unavoidable reference for any historical account of techno and industrial music in Latin America.
The title of this compilation is inspired by the name of a concert held in Lima in 1991, considered to be the first techno concert to have taken place in Peru. Even though not all intervening groups were doing techno at that time, they did share the fact that they all used keyboards. Four of them, however (Cuerpos del Deseo, Ensamble, Círculo Interior and Reacción), were in fact affiliated to an electronic sound (techno-pop, EBM). The concert was a sign of the diversification of musical styles in Lima's alternative scene, and in particular of the emergence of a micro scene, for which the concert Síntomas de techno [Symptoms of Techno] represented an important step towards the development of a local culture of electronic music during the 90s.
Many of the recordings included here are extracted from demos with limited circulation, practically impossible to find. Other tracks are unpublished pieces which come from the private archives of the artists themselves. The compilation has been made by Luis Alvarado and is part of the Essential Sounds Collection, with which Buh Records is making available a vast archive of avant-garde Peruvian music. This compilation is published in vinyl format in a limited edition of 300 copies, with extensive information and visual documentation. Mastered by Alberto Cendra. Art by René Sánchez. Cover photography by Rogelio Martell.
This project was awarded with funding from the Economic Stimuli program of the Peruvian Ministry of Culture.
Sintomas de techno
Underground electronic waves from Peru (1985-1992)
By Luis Alvarado
(Spanish version: centrodelsonido.pe/articulos/sintomasdetechno/)
The title of this compilation is inspired by the name of a concert held in Lima in 1991, considered to be the first techno concert to have taken place in Peru. Even though not all intervening groups were doing techno at that time, they did share the fact that they all used keyboards. Three of them, however, were in fact affiliated to an electronic sound. The concert was a sign of the diversification of musical styles in Lima's alternative scene, and in particular of the emergence of a micro scene, for which the concert Síntomas de techno [Symptoms of Techno] represented an important step towards the development of a local culture of electronic music during the 90s.
But let's go back a bit. At the beginning of the 80s, music made with synthesizers and drum machines had a discreet presence in Peru. The return to democracy in 1980 and the opening to imports had generated a certain influx of these electronic instruments. Those who took the most advantage of it were the tropical and chicha orchestras, both in Lima and in various parts of Peru. The international disco music fever also led many of these groups to make their own cover versions of hit songs from this genre, and some ephemeral synthesizer disco music projects such as Rollets or Grupo Swing were formed. The famous children's music artist Yola Polastri also helped popularize disco with her album Yola Discoteque (1983). Even artists who came from the world of concrete and cosmic music, such as Arturo Ruiz del Pozo, could not resist the powerful influence of disco, as can be heard in his album Viajero terrestre [Land Traveler] (1986). A singular case is that of the first recordings of Dr. No, the group led by Chachi Luján, who in the 70s formed the rock band Telegraph Ave, and in the early 80s recorded a few songs using only synthesizers and a drum machine.
But simultaneously, and in response, new nightclubs appeared with the intent of disseminating other alternative musical styles derived from new wave and post-punk. 1979 was the year a nightclub significantly called No Disco opened in Lima. This gave way to other clubs such as Biz Pix, No Helden and Nirvana, places that became the meeting point of a young generation of nonconformists who assimilated the new alternative music trends. Those clubs also hosted many of the bands involved in the nascent movement of rock subterráneo [underground rock].
Lima was then a city convulsed by an acute economic crisis and a violent environment as a result of the war between terrorist groups and the military. In the midst of that conflict, rock subterráneo exploded: with a crude and disenchanted language, it assimilated the postulates of punk and DIY. A handful of bands began to make themselves known through demos and fanzines. By 1985, the subtes [underground rock musicians] had already articulated a scene with iconic bands such as Narcosis, Leuzemia, Zcuela Cerrada, Guerrilla Urbana and Autopsia.
The existence of Narcosis was brief but intense (1984-1985). After dissolving, its members began to explore new styles. Guitarist Fernando “Cachorro” Vial formed the post-punk group Feudales, with which he released a demo in 1986, whose b-side included recordings of a project called Paisaje Electrónico [Electronic Landscape]. There he delved into the techno pop sound, using only sounds taken from a Casiotone that he borrowed for one night. The singer Wicho García, for his part, had already shown interest in sound collages, using them in the intros of some of Narcosis' songs. His obsession with lo-fi montage techniques was reflected in a new project called Meine Katze und Ich [My Cat and I] from 1985, which only surfaced in the early 2000s with the release of an old recording titled “La gran masa” [The Great Mass], which captured the punk spirit of Narcosis in a keyboard and drum machine pop format. Neither of the two projects did concerts, but they were the first signs of a techno spirit that spread in Lima's alternative music scene.
It was only with the appearance of the band Disidentes, between late 1987 and mid-1988, that the first live electronic noise explorations were unveiled in Lima. Disidentes consisted of Martín Ponce (vocals), Rodrigo Vivar (keyboard), Raúl Mondragón (percussion and vocals), and Hoover (percussion). Although they were not strictly electronic, the group used rhythmic bases and electronic sounds extracted from a Casiotone. They had an unconventional mise en scène, which included the use of metal plates and cylinders used as percussion that they processed with guitar effects, a megaphone, and slide projections. These showed a group of mothers of missing people from Ayacucho during the years of terrorism, synchronized with audio recordings of promises made by the Minister of Economy, a reality as contrasting as it was bleak, which led to gales of noise, starting what must be the first industrial music performances in Peru. A genre that, like EBM, began to develop in Lima's alternative scene, thanks to the trips or musical exchanges made by some musicians and members of the movement. Multimedia happenings were also beginning to pop up, including the one organized by María Castro, Pancho Almenara and Grupo El Sol at the Nirvana nightclub. But the dissemination of techno and related electronic genres was also done through fanzines, such as the one directed by Martín Ponce himself, called “Prototipo” [Prototype] (1987) or the one directed by Rollo Roncallo, called “Núcleo” [Nucleus] (1986). Disidentes recorded some demos that were only released around mid-2000. Raúl Mondragón has stated that, although he attended rock subterráneo concerts, he and his musical projects were unconnected to this scene.
After the dissolution of Disidentes, Martín Ponce and Lucio Salazar (who had joined Disidentes for the band's last show), joined a project that Armando Poma (Boy), Jesús Avalos (Billy) and Alejandro Medina (Jando) had been developing. It was called T de cobre, and they made their live debut in September 1988 at the well-remembered Peña Huascarán. They maintained some of Disidente's industrial approaches, such as the use of metal percussions and a megaphone, as well as slide projections with journalistic images that portrayed the internal armed conflict. However, there was a greater use of synthesizers and drum machines, which they rented from Martín Figueroa from the studio Astro Producciones, and which resulted in a sound close to EBM, with a repertoire of raw songs, harsh electronic production and absolutely machine-like rhythms. T de cobre did not do more than 6 concerts, but they left a few recordings, a music video and a deep mark on the scene.
In the wake of attending a T de cobre concert, a group of friends decided it was time to form a band. This is how Círculo Interior emerged in 1988, having as members Willy Techno (CZ 101), Ricardo Barrantes (CS15), Carlos Vásquez (TR 505) and Jorge Munive (YS 200). Círculo Interior oriented their sound towards a dark techno pop, but also showed an affinity to electronic dance music, influenced by Detroit techno. They made their debut in 1990 at a party organized by the Arkadia collective and were involved in the organization of the Síntomas de techno concert, inspired by the name of the Mexican group Syntoma, held at La Cabaña theater, on March 15, 1991, at the initiative of José Torres Lam, a communications student at the University of Lima, a regular at concerts of rock subterráneo. The poster was based on the humanoid that served as the logo of Corporación Sintética, record label of the group Syntoma. At that event, three other groups with a techno sound were unveiled: Ensamble, Cuerpos del Deseo and Reacción, as well as post-punk groups such as Nosotros No, Deckadas and Vade Retro. The participation of Stress Full, the new project of the members of T de cobre, had been announced hastily, but they finally did not appear, being instead among the public.
Ensamble was formed in 1989 by the brothers Jorge González (keyboards and vocals) and Edgar González (keyboards), Julissa Castañeda (vocals) and Christian Villacrez (keyboards). They made their debut in February 1990 in a concert at La Casona, together with the subte groups Cardenales and Corazón Violento. Jorge González had played keyboards for several years, had been a member of Psicosis, and had formed a project called Fierros Oxidados in 1988. After their participation in Síntomas de techno, Ensamble began an intense activity during the 90s. Their style alternated between EBM and synthpop, the latter being the genre that has most identified them. Of all the groups that emerged in that period, it's the only one that has remained in activity until today.
Reacción was the group of Magno Ortiz, Támer Flores and Luis Enrique Torres. It was formed in May 1988 and they performed with some frequency at universities and in places like La Casona de Barranco. They were not linked to the rock subterráneo scene but they developed an instant affinity with the techno groups that were appearing at the time. In their concerts, they coupled cover versions of Depeche Mode and Los Prisioneros with their own songs, always oriented towards a synthpop sound. They played in the concert Síntomas de techno in a duo version, before Luis Enrique Torres' trip to the United States for studies. They managed to record some demos of an extensive repertoire of songs.
Cuerpos del deseo was a project formed in 1990 by the visual artist and musician Renzo Ortega (keyboards, backing vocals) together with Christian Ames (vocals) and Rodolfo Pajares (percussion). They debuted in a concert called Rock en protesta ahora más que nunca [Rock in Protest Now More Than Ever], alongside rock subterráneo bands like Combustible, Psicosis, Irreverentes and Actitud Frenética. In their live performances they used a snare to lay down their rhythmic base. After their participation in Síntomas de techno, they released the demo Por una razón [For a Reason] (1991), recorded as a duo before the departure of Rodolfo Pajares, and which contained techno pop songs with an urgent punk spirit, and austere and creative instrumentation based on a keyboard with built-in drum accompaniment. The cover of the demo was illustrated with a design by the artist Julio Granados.
That same year a group called El sueño de Alí released the demo En el valle del placer [In the Valley of Pleasure], a combination of techno pop and new wave, which opened a new horizon in the universe of Lima's techno explorations. Nourished by many influences, the techno sound was a means of landing a hotbed of ideas from Pelo Madueño, former drummer of Narcosis, Eructo Maldonado and Miki González. Madueño was joined by Félix Torrealva (Eructo Maldonado) and Johanna San Miguel. The songs had been composed between 1988 and 1989, and the recording process finalized in January 1990 in Madueño's portastudio. They did not do concerts; rather, this project was the seed of a later band called La Liga del Sueño, which garnered great media attention.
Towards the mid-90s, Círculo Interior became Unidad Central, one of the emblematic bands of the nascent rave culture in Lima. Cuerpos del deseo began to share concerts, and even recorded a split, with Insumisión, the musical project of Leonardo Bacteria, who ended up being the group's singer. Renzo Ortega would later form the duo Vacuna tu hijo. Bacteria, for his part, became an iconic figure of Lima's gabber and hardcore digital scene in the mid-90s.
On the other hand, Ensamble had an intense activity and many musicians passed through its ranks who would go on to form various synthpop projects such as Avatar, Deimos or Estación Perdida. New projects like Arian 1 would consolidate an EBM sound in Lima. At the end of the 90s, a diversified electronic music scene came into focus, where each tribe began to define its own space: the dance scene, synthpop, EBM and the experimental or noise scene.
But what transpired between 1985 and 1992, with the appearance of this first batch of techno projects, opened a path for a new type of local electronic music community despite the extremely bleak context, which was portrayed in songs like “En la tiniebla” [In the Dark] or “Industria de odio” [Hate Factory]. Although they associated with the subtes, the music of these artists demanded another type of spaces and freedoms, and it can be said that in itself it defined a new sensibility, which clashed with the rock hard line of the subterráneo movement. They could be eccentric, not only for the audacity with which they drew attention to themselves, but for doing it by inventing their own ways and methods, creatively buiding on what they had at hand. For this reason, it was also a battle against technical limitations, to which these bands opposed creativity and an ability to always move outside the norm.