Introducing: Verraco

Introducing: Verraco

Through adventurous IDM and techno, Colombia’s Verraco lays down a politically-charged manifesto on his debut album. John Thorp finds out what it all means.

The foundations of Verraco’s unlikely musical perspective were established using the same tool as many teenagers across the world; with a fake ID. Growing up in the Colombian city of Medellin, Verraco found himself at venues like Carnival and megaclubs that were regularly playing host to DJs such as Mathew Johnson, UMEK, Marco Carola and other hugely influential figures involved in progressing techno from minimal to maximal. It was in the midst of these dense, hedonistic parties, aided by many of the city’s most prominent drug lords, that young Verraco saw, as he puts it, “crazy shit.”

Years later, and Verraco is building crazy shit all his own. Long since exhausted by the dominance of commercial techno in his home city, he founded the Insurgentes imprint in 2017 alongside friend and collaborator, Defuse. Over ten releases, the sonically adventurous back catalogue has fulfilled a specific mission using an “old-school techno attitude” and a progressive sensibility to expand towards a singular philosophy: “amplify Latin American artists, programming from ambient for the mind to breaks for the ass.” 

“There is a sense of community as we firmly believe that we must move forward as a block,” explains Verraco. “The most beautiful thing is that this faction is becoming more and more decentralized, and now we are extending from Argentina to Mexico.”

Released through the label, Verraco’s debut LP Grial is a hugely ambitious record; a sensitive but powerful distillation of what might paradoxically known as traditional IDM (the work of Aphex Twin, Plaid and the ambition of vintage Warp Records looms large over its sound palette), but immersed in the traditions of Colombian and otherwise Latinx music, blending “perreo” drum techniques and a humid ambience far removed from the more clinical end of experimental electronic music.

    Photo by: Santiago Marzola & Cartel Urbano

“I discovered a very strong identification with what had happened in Cornwall and Bristol, or South West England in general, sonically speaking,” explains Verraco, who also credits James Holden and Border Community as early creative imprints. “But then, the idea was not to reproduce what they had already done there but to collide it with my surroundings, memories, and South American heritage.”

The musical concepts of Grial tumble through the album like a waterfall. Veracco’s immediate skill is in conjuring a soundscape that seems to exist between organic and digital spaces; on “NRG Remains” and “Abya Yalifa,” the sort of dreamy melodies that Four Tet would be proud of melt subtly into onslaughts of digital noise. “Sur Furia” features a stretched audio sample that emerges with an unexpected wink to Double 99’s UKG classic “RIP Groove,” while the explicit intent of “Breaking Hegemonies” is just that — mashing industrial with D&B breaks and creating a sound that’s both refreshing and uncompromising.

Veracco’s music might sometimes sound like a party at the end of the world, but Grial is only dreaming of a new one. His record and the Insurgentes label at large are informed by an extensive futurist manifesto penned with his friend Leticia; one that boldly imagines a Latinx utopia informed by the legacies of thinkers and artists such as Donna Harraway, Arca, Alan Turing, and Carl Sagan. 

“I was always fascinated by the idea of a sonic fiction, a term that Kodwo Eshun explores in their book ‘More Brilliant Than The Sun’”, explains Veracco. “The narrative of Futurism has almost always been exported to us as Latin Americans. So I wanted to dream what our struggles and utopias would be like through or otherwise linked to sound.”

Verracco recorded Grial in between Medellin and Barcelona, where, thanks to a scholarship, he had been studying intensely for a master’s degree. While his academic interests undoubtedly influenced the record, he was lacking time to commit to his bedroom studio, although discovering and traveling Europe helped to expand the “technical and conceptual horizons” of the production.

Photo: Santiago Marzola + Cartel Urbano

     Photo by: Julián Gallo

This international perspective is key to the border-shattering notions central in the music. Verracco’s art is ultra-conscious of damaging perspectives of Latinx music from both inside of his home country and from further afield. Grial was written to “reject the notion of a singular Latinx musical identity.” Does the greater danger of these narratives emerge from cultural appropriation or a well-established psyche?

“On one hand, there is the ignorant view of some societies-people in the global north that understand Latin culture through Hollywood tales,” they elaborate. “On the other hand, there is the essentialist view of many Latin Americans who believe that identity can only be expressed through folklore. Rather than being frustrated, I wanted to use the album to make a statement, a reminder that different, multiple worlds-contexts can be altered, mixed and coexist between each other, especially in artistic territories.”

Another long-term fixture and inspiration for Verracco is Ralf Hütter, the German innovator and founder of Kraftwerk. Arriving in the seventies with revolutionary new approaches in regards to society, music, and technology, many of their ideas have since become truly influential fixtures of popular culture.

“Hütter’s idea of understanding electronic music as the Volksmusik (popular music) of the future, always resonated with me,” explains Verracco. “However, I feel that this idea of understanding electronic music as something inherent to Western culture is becoming more diluted, and that excites me a lot, because these are rhythms that are becoming more and more democratic, which tend to be universal thanks to technology.

    Photo by: Santiago Marzola & Cartel Urbano

“It is not as if electronic music is based on autochthonous instruments that are inherent to a particular region,” Verracco adds. “This music, in its great majority, is made through machines which, because of globalization, are penetrating almost all the corners of the world.”

In 2020, as Grail was completed, Verraco watched as a more destructive force began to penetrate all corners of the world. A provocateur of sonic futures, has the onset of the pandemic strengthened or weakened his particular vision?

“The pandemic did not alter at all the construction of the utopia or message that we want to continue enunciating about Latin futurism,” Verraco stresses, elaborating on a vision that is already tantalisingly fully-formed. “A new emancipatory mixture, one that celebrates our impurity, without losing the memory or tradition and that also proposes a new cosmovision, a new way of understanding how we should inhabit the earth.”

Verraco’s debut album ‘Grial’ is out now via Insurgents. Buy it here.

John Thorp is a freelance journalist living in Berlin. You can find more of his work here.

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