Boundary Is the Dominican Republic’s Leftfield Techno Prodigy

Pitchfork contributing editor Isabelia Herrera’s column covers the most captivating songs, trends, artists, and scenes coming out of Latin America and its diaspora.

On a tucked-away street in the heart of Santo Domingo, surrounded by the Gothic architecture of 500-year-old basilicas and former residences of colonial officials, a speaker-frying party was about to begin. It was a humid December night in 2017, and the producer Boundary, born Josué Suero, was gearing up to play snippets of his album Fantasmagórico, a collection of bubbly IDM and sparkling techno tracks. A smattering of club kids, industry folk, and underground beatmakers gathered on the sidewalk outside the venue to smoke. The lineup that night featured other Dominican experimentalists, including Kelman Duran and Diego Raposo. I was excited to catch both Duran and Raposo’s sets, but I’ll admit I was most curious about Boundary, who, at 17 years old, had suddenly emerged as the scene’s resident prodigy.

“I was a baby, baby,” he joked over Zoom last month from his home in the D.R. “Now I’m onto some other shit, for real.” In the seven years since that performance, Suero, now 23, has become quite prolific; his discography now includes nine EPs, two albums, and countless singles. He has since transformed into a fixture in the Dominican capital’s electronic scene while demonstrating his international ambitions, releasing projects on U.S. and European labels like Third Try, Point Records, and Secretsundaze. His forthcoming EP ³com arrives at the end of the month, compiling what he calls “pseudo club tracks” recorded between 2022 and 2024.

Photo by Sebastian Viñas

His most recent full-length is January’s Oxido en el Espejo (Oxide on the Mirror), out on Berlin’s Exotic Robotics imprint. Oxido is a shimmering stream of ambling basslines, chiffon-soft pads, and punchy four-on-the-floor rhythms, culling elements of Detroit techno, Japanese ambient, and everything in between. He started working on some tracks in 2019 but had no idea they would eventually take the shape of a proper LP. At the time, he was confronting his complex feelings about Dominican society, his apocalyptic anxieties, and his lifelong struggle with body dysmorphia. “I’ve always had this thing with my physical self. Looking in the mirror and being like, ‘That’s you, bitch?’” he explains. The album is, in part, “about transcending the physical barrier” of his body by shattering a metaphorical, corroded, and oxidized mirror.

But for him, Oxido is also a doomsday tale, inspired by his “disgust with this country, with the world in general.” The tracklist of Oxido tells a clandestine story about the end of times, narrating the exodus of birds and people from the planet (“Son Quienes Cortan los Cielos Grises” and “Las Aves Ya Saben Donde Ir”). It concludes with a meditation on the remnants of life on Earth, scanning what has been left behind in the rubble (“Global Transpose”). Still, Suero is adamant that the record should be open to the listener’s interpretation. “I don’t really have the need to inculcate a meaning, like ‘It’s this and that’s it,’” he explains. “I like that people can create their own world in these songs.”

Suero first encountered electronic music when he was 4, after his father brought home a pirated PlayStation 1 game called Roll Away. The soundtrack, produced by the Swedish duo Twice a Man, blends ambient-techno, downtempo, and Balearic house. From there, the floodgates opened. His father showed him the Tiësto compilation In Search of Sunrise 5: Los Angeles. His older brother, with whom he shared a room for 17 years, would spend his afternoons digging for new tracks on the now-defunct blog Hype Machine, or listening to mixes from the New York-based multimedia art magazine DIS. Suero would come home from school and they’d spend hours listening to music. “My brother was on top of everything DIS Magazine was doing: all those collaborations and mixes with Nguzunguzu, Total Freedom, Kelela,” he explains. “Everything was allowed, and everything was deconstructed at the same time…That really opened my eyes.” The jagged aesthetics of early 2010s club music inspired him to make tracks of his own. With encouragement from his brother, he started uploading his own productions to SoundCloud at 16, using—you guessed it—a bootleg version of Ableton.

I spoke to Boundary about the journey to Oxido en el Espejo, the electronic scene in Santo Domingo, and the expectations he faces as a Dominican electronic artist.

Photo by Sebastian Viñas

Pitchfork: You mentioned that Oxido en el Espejo is partially about the Dominican Republic. Do you mean in a political sense?

Boundary: Politics, yes, but the movement of life too. My arrangements reflect this. There’s never a constant flow, there’s simply organized chaos: Nothing makes sense, nothing is where it’s supposed to be, but for that very reason, everything is where it needs to be. This country is so fucking violent, so loud, so…visceral. It’s so rough, so brutish. All those qualities are things that I like to apply in the way I make music, be it in the arrangements or sonics. And yet at the same time, this country is a fucking magical place.

During the time that I made the album, one of my best friends Fer Orellana and I started meeting up with this man named Mario Rosario, who showed us the pillars of Dominican folk music. The rhythms that I have been learning have been palos (and within palos there’s the palo cañuto, among others), gagá, salve, congo, and more. All those rhythms and genres have their own super extensive subdivisions.

By learning those touches of palo and all these folkloric Dominican styles, I’ve unconsciously applied many of these patterns and rules within my music, without literally using a tambor drum or dembow snare or a dembow kick. Obviously it’s not on all the tracks. But it brought me awareness of my roots and a philosophy that comes from my ancestors and descendants: seeing, learning, and listening about our Afro-Dominican background, of everything that persists from when we were just one island (Quisqueya). Dominicans have always wanted to deny their Blackness, and our brotherhood with Haiti, but we literally all came from the same place. It’s written in history, it’s written in music, and it’s written in people’s faces. I realized that I’d adopted a new philosophy, a new way of listening and appreciating time (and spaces) that I could start applying to my music and to sounds.

Making electronic music as a Dominican, people are expecting dembow snares. I have an insane appreciation for dembow; not just anyone can make dembow. I’ve tried, and that is a fucking art. I feel way more pressured, because everyone outside [of the Dominican Republic] is doing it. I have friends in Mexico City, in Colombia, who are putting these breaks at 160 BPM with dembow snares. It’s cool, obviously, but not many people sit down to….I don’t know, respect the source. And acknowledge the source. I have too much respect for dembow to use it lightly.

How would you describe the electronic scene in Santo Domingo?

I feel that there aren’t accessible spaces, or a venue for electronic music that’s made for everyone. Seeing electronic music here is a privilege. Whoever goes to see electronic music here is middle class and above. Straight up. The Warehouse was the only venue where all kinds of social classes went. That was the spot. But after that closed, I haven’t seen anything like it again, honestly.

Here, we’re still about microhouse. Techno is a stretch. You play 130 BPM and above and you’re already playing too fast. They’ve told me so at shows. One set I did enjoy was when Villana, Villano Antillano’s DJ, came a month ago. That was the only set I’ve played that was no filter. There, everything was fair game: funk carioca, a little dembow, techno. And people loved it. So if events to spread this music don’t happen, we won’t have anything. It happens in Spain, in Mexico City, even in the fucking Netherlands. They’re also listening to dembow with breaks. How is it not going to work in the fucking D.R., loco?

Temazos y Palos of the Month

Tato el x5: “No Me la Apague” (ft. Negrette Game Over)

By the time you finish reading this sentence, somewhere in Santo Domingo, a dembowsero has invented an entirely new vocabulary to fry your ass. The genre is known for moving fast, churning out new slang and artists as quickly as Shein releases flimsy crop tops. On “No Me la Apague,” rappers Tato el x5 and Negrette Game Over offer up an almost-two-minute head rush about making sure your speaker stays at rude volumes. The track boasts the best parts of dembow: a laugh-out-loud intro, an irresistibly repetitive chorus, and a video filled with the movement’s signature jerky dance moves. The beat’s chiptune flourishes are a refreshing left turn, adding a sense of play to the already punchy production. Peep the voguing toward the end of the video, a welcome surprise from a genre that has long sidelined its queer artists.

Lomiiel: “HAY LUPITA”

A few weeks ago, I was casually scrolling through YouTube and came across “HAY LUPITA,” the latest missive from Santo Domingo’s dembow underground. I was already late to the game; the track has 16 million views and Lomiiel has been dropping new singles on a near weekly basis since he released it a month ago. “HAY LUPITA” is nothing like dembow as we typically know it: Instead of speaker-knocking bass, a cowbell and shaker drill into the production like a kid given free range over a hole puncher. This is dembow turned (almost) perico ripiao, more closely resembling the speed and feeling of merengue than the hard, combustive aggression that defines the genre. Lomiiel sings on a live mic with a half-lisp and breathless flow, pining after a woman’s hips like he’s a merenguero from the ’90s. The teens at my bus stop in Bushwick were blasting this a few days after I heard it for the first time, so I’m gonna trust the youth and bet that this is the genre’s future.

yendruy aquinx, Kino Rose, Diego Raposo, Eric Savi: “SUSHI / DONE WITH THIS”

Jungle might be everywhere these days, but on “SUSHI / DONE WITH THIS,” the Dominican R&B singer yendruy aquinx (and his producers Diego Raposo and Eric Savi) find a way to make the skittish drum pattern feel like they invented it. Over the course of five minutes, breaks twitch and shapeshift, morphing under aquinx’s yearning melodies. The restless transitions add a sense of high drama to the track, like the saturated cinematography and moody atmospherics of a Denis Villeneuve film. When Kino Rose arrives for a cocky English-language verse, the production lights up like a neurological heat map. This is blockbuster R&d’n’b, engineered for you to listen to in the most expensive headphones you can find.

Rosas: “Templos”

The Sinaloan artist Rosas calls his sound “neo-trova,” a cheeky nod to the traditional poetic and musical form. But his recent album SANTO O REMEDIO goes further than a single genre, cutting and pasting elements from trip-hop, cumbia, and disco. Across the record, his lissome voice wafts above the instruments like a stray balloon floating in the blue sky. “Templos” collages twinkling synth pads and chugging cumbia percussion; it’s like blasting bedroom pop in your room while the family party rages on in the background. If Selena and Beach House were ever trapped in a studio together, it might sound a little like this.

Salt Cathedral: “Thinking (‘bout you, ‘bout me)”

You know when your social battery dies at a house party and you manage to sneak away onto the rooftop for some solo time? Salt Cathedral’s “Thinking (‘bout you, ‘bout me)” seems designed for that precise moment: Sometimes, you need a beat to just stare at the skyscrapers and smoke your cigarette in peace. Juli Ronderos’ glassy vocals sparkle over crystalline piano keys, at first giving the impression that there is no bassline in sight. When the four-on-the-floor finally hits, it’s not even an explosive ascent, rather a steady climb until the prismatic climax arrives toward the song’s end. This is Main Character music, so don’t feel bad about getting away from the function and brooding about your crush if you need to.

Young Miko, Villano Antillano: “MADRE”

When Villano Antillano and Young Miko teamed up in 2021 for “Vendetta,” they made one thing clear: In Puerto Rico, the reign of queer femmes in rap and reggaeton was about to begin. Two years later, their new collaboration “Madre,” built on a sticky sample of Technotronic’s “Pump Up the Jam,” lands like a victory lap—or maybe more accurately, a gravity-defying death drop. La Villana is the show stopper here, stunting over a thumping bassline and a hilarious outro in which she asks if a “face card” is an acceptable form of payment. Just try not to do a spit take when she mentions “serving fish”—specifically tilapia and octopi, of course.

Ezmeralda: “El amor eficaz”

Ezmeralda, Bogotá’s self-described “goth from the tropics,” has a gift for refracting memory and tradition. On his 2022 EP En átomos volando, he warped cumbia rebajada and the spoken testimony of a gamín (street urchin) into unsettling, barely-there whispers. His EP Ruido y Flor, on TraTraTrax’s brand-new ambient sublabel Ambie—Tón, takes the impulse for contortion even further. Lead single “El amor eficaz” is a shimmering meditation on divine love, departing from a micro-sample of Juan Luis Guerra’s “Bachata Rosa” and the influential liberation theology of Marxist-Leninist Colombian priest Camilo Torres Restrepo. A muffled, pitch-shifted voice echoes under a speckled synth arpeggio, looping over and over, never really charging forward, only reflecting flecks of glittering light, as if it were unraveling inside of a kaleidoscope. Here, Ezmeralda harnesses the freewheeling freedom of a seraphic, collective kind of love—all you have to do is surrender to it.