Breathe​.​.​. Godspeed EP

Verraco and his peers in Medellín, Colombia once presented themselves as rave revolutionaries: guerillas rising up to topple a hegemonic club culture and wrest electronic music from the Global North’s death grip. They called their label Insurgentes; its inaugural release, Verraco’s debut EP, was titled Resistir. But over the past seven years, Verraco (aka JP López) and his crew have grown from upstarts into some of the most feted names in the underground, kingpins of a scene that onlookers have dubbed—somewhat problematically—“Latin club.”

Yet Verraco has never been one to be pigeonholed. True, he deployed cumbia rhythms on the 2020 song “Breaking Hegemonies” and sampled the iconic Zapatista spokesman Subcomandante Marcos on “Hasta morir si es preciso.” Releases on his label TraTraTrax, a successor to Insurgentes, are awash in Caribbean dembow, Venezuelan raptor house, Mexican tribal techno, and other sounds from across Latin America and the diaspora. But TraTraTrax refuses to be pinned to any identity but the one that the community has invented for itself: The label described 2022’s no pare, sigue sigue—the closest thing the scene has had to a manifesto—as a “popurrí,” a mixture of “everything and nothing, just sudaca bangers loaded with flavour and resentment, but above all, resentment, because we don’t want our wounds to heal.”

Verraco’s music is equally informed by the brain-bending sounds of Aphex Twin, Autechre, and other UK electronic pioneers, along with the psychedelia of artists like James Holden and the darkside electro of Rotterdam and The Hague. This is also a kind of resistance, a way of reminding worldwide audiences that López has as much claim to the Euro-American techno canon as any white kid in Ohio or Heidelberg. After the relative abstraction of his 2020 album Grial, Verraco dropped his heaviest, most triumphantly unbridled work yet with last year’s storming and altogether unorthodox Escándaloo, a double-barreled shot across club music’s bow; now, on Breathe… Godspeed, he breaks out even bigger guns. The four tracks bear some relationship to other contemporary Latin club anthems in their chugging rhythms and severe sonics, but in their sheer, intransigent weirdness, they sound little like anything else—from anywhere at all.

Rather than any given style, Verraco’s work is defined by its intensity—overdriven synths, distorted percussion, violently gyrating oscillators—and the epic scale of his arrangements, which often sound less like club tracks than galactic battle-march hymns. Both qualities are in ample supply on these four tracks, which feel like a single overarching suite. They share a palette of muscular drums, digitally abraded textures, and wildly disorienting sound design. Nothing is what it seems: Basslines growl like cyborg beasts, while processed voices—jabbering and chattering indecipherably—might be mischievous aliens. The mood is exhilarating but unsettling; both the intricate patterning and ambiguous air of malice remind me of the geometric landscapes and “machine elves” described by many DMT users. Verraco’s tracks report from an alternate dimension of club music, where even the most familiar trope is made thrillingly strange.

Breathe… Godspeed’s four tracks also share a resistance to doing anything you might expect them to do. On the opening “0∞,” Verraco withholds the bass for more than two minutes, stoking tension with a succession of high, squealy frequencies; then, halfway through, a plunging breakdown suggests shades of garish 2011 dubstep crossed with the harsh, fuck-off sonics of underground noise music. Only toward the end does a 4/4 beat claw the track back from the edge of chaos. “Godspeed >” turns the same elements into a relentless percussive assault; “Climaxing | Breathe” drops the tempo to a grueling 85 BPM, dials up the dissonance, and wraps around an ascending glissando that sounds like a Shepard-Risset tone from hell. Just when you expect the beat to drop, the whole track just fizzles out. It’s an audacious way to thwart an anticipated climax; you can practically hear Verraco cackling to himself in the studio.

Nowhere is Verraco more unpredictable than on the closing track, “Sí, idealízame.” It’s the EP’s emotional heart, fueled by a surprisingly melodic bass progression and festooned with gleaming accents. Like “Climaxing | Breathe,” it moves with a feeling of perpetual ascent; every time you expect the beat to kick in full-force, one or more elements pull back, withholding the satisfaction of the drop. The groove moves so swiftly and forcefully that it might take a while to realize that there are almost no drums, just an understated kick and hi-hats dissolved into a fine mist. But there are no snares, no congas, no cowbells—none of the stereotypical attributes of Latin club. The title translates as something like “yes, idealize me,” or “sure, fetishize me.” I read it as a provocation: Try to put Verraco in a box if you like—he’s got other plans.