Alibi V.28 No.39 • Sept 26-Oct 2, 2019 

Feature

We Are, We Are, We Are

SOMOS Festival lights the way home

In the Spanish language, the word somos is a form of the verb ser, “to be.” When conjugated properly—see above—the word means “we are.”

We are. Of course what we really are is another question for the ages, like the one that asks heshers which version of Black Sabbath they prefer or the one that seeks communion with the vernaculars of Dylan and Lamar. But by the looks of it—from historical models to recent iterations—a good way to evaluate human culture is to take in its big festivals, especially the ones where music is played.

With those sorts of parameters, one gets responses as diverse as the ancient month-long celebration of Huitzilopochtli in Tenochitlan, the yearly festival of Dashain in Nepal, Grateful Dead concerts of the 1970s and 1980s as well as more recent creations like Lollapalooza, Burning Man, and to a certain extent, the SOMOS Festival in Albuquerque, N.M.

What?!

If such events are representative of specific cultures or refer to greater universal human tendencies or expressions, then SOMOS must represent the best features of youth culture, circa 2020. The bright lure of tech in a futuristic urban setting where art happens instantly and always right on the street while primal rhythms and costumed characters float lovingly through an experience that is by design loud and labyrinthine but still designed to entice and entertain.

This is the third year for SOMOS. The first year, by many accounts, was not necessarily a wildly successful thing. With acts like Deltron 3030 and Minus the Bear, the festival still seemed to be trying to divine its own identity. Further, some participants and vendors said afterwards they didn’t like the outcome. That changed in 2018, after some internal reorganizing and the election of a progressive mayor who also happens to be excited for Albuquerque's future.

This year’s SOMOS is going to be more inclusively complex than ever, promising participants as well as sponsors, performers—and everyone else in a 10-mile radius—a glimpse into what Albuquerque is or could be and what it very likely will evolve toward under continued progressive governance and consequent cultural expression.

Def-i
Def-i
Corey Yazzie

Def-i

In many ways the values illuminated by the SOMOS Festival are embodied in local rapper and DJ Def-i, a native Burqueño with Indigenous roots who has grown with the city in the past 10 years, providing a voice of hope and optimism to groove to while embracing a constantly shifting urban environment.

Def-i’s flavor of hip-hop is potently local, like the red chile ribs on the menu at El Modelo. It’s hot and it’s humble, buried in a sauce of experience and expectation that’s both haunting and head-clearing. Def-i can enrapture or enlighten; to haters he’ll always enrage, but his message remains one of high hopes measured against this burg’s skyline.

Weekly Alibi invited the rapper over to talk about his upcoming appearance at SOMOS. He stopped by on a Friday afternoon—after the climate change demonstration in Robinson Park—to chat.

Weekly Alibi: Lots of peeps are familiar with your flow. But for those not in the know, tell our readers something about yourself.

Def-i: For those who’ve never seen me before, I’m an MC. I love hip-hop, but I try not to be one-dimensional as far styles go.

Who are your big influences, right now?

Right now, my big influences are—because of the band I’m working with currently—from Freestyle Fellowship and Guru’s Jazzmatazz—when I heard Guru flowing over jazz music it really inspired me to work with a band. I’m working with DDAT.

In DDAT you’re known as Chris Bidtah, right?

Yeah, but I’m going to be doing more of that sort of work solo, as Def-i. Nowadays, I really like artists like Joyner Lucas, he’s a really dope artist, MC-wise, and I dig his technicality. Also Crooked I.

That’s some heavy listening, man.

Yeah, but it has me psyched for SOMOS!

What’s your new work about? What should we be listening for?

My new work ... is mostly produced by Ariano and Smoke M2D6. Their beats shifted my whole writing process just because their production is different than normal boom bap hip-hop that a lot of listeners are used to from the nineties.

That’s still a popular sound, rock the bells, eh?

I guess [my new sound] is better because it’s produced and engineered a lot better. I’ve been able to work on my songwriting skills. I’m getting more practiced. Learning to enunciate more. There’s more clarity in the new work, on all sorts of levels.

How did get involved with SOMOS?

The first time I got involved with SOMOS was the first time they put the festival together. I opened for Deltron 3030. They were the headliner. I was on tour with my buddy Wake Self and we had been opening up for Masta Ace; he got to go on right before Deltron [3030].

That’s a cool lineup, man.

Wow, it is a cool lineup! The second year, I didn’t perform, but this year they invited me to be part of it. I’m headlining the local stage, what they’re calling the civic stage. That’s an honor for me, man.

Black Tiger Sex Machine
Black Tiger Sex Machine
courtesy of the artist

Black Tiger Sex Machine

Meanwhile, SOMOS will be an opportunity to get down to the latest sounds emanating like hot hot fire from Popocatépetl—straight outta the flaming maw of the international EDM scene. Thanks to the darkened feline antics of Canadians Black Tiger Sex Machine, the thing commonly known as the cutting edge arrives in Burque just in time for SOMOS—as previously described and ready to turn the last of the rockers into pillars of salt.

The sexy EDM trio are fan faves at the Electric Daisy Carnival and if you’re still donning your flannel PJs and accessorizing with glowsticks and pacifiers loaded with Vicks VapoRub, then it’s time to catch up. This generation of electro wizards runs deeper, with the endurance of an animal and without the colorful face paint. The new sound is descended from house with some trance-y, trap-y elements, yo, but it’s buried about 100 miles below all that—full of rumbling nuance and lava-like explosions of rhythm.

Or something like that. To get a better idea of what these glowing mask-clad musical figures truly represent—if they’re Satanic it would be good to know now, one reckons—Weekly Alibi chatted with BTSM DJ Julien Maranda.

This is what he said between glorious flashes of light and 100hz bass notes.

Weekly Alibi: Hey, it’s August March from Weekly Alibi, calling to talk to you about Black Tiger Sex Machine. Got a few minutes?

Julien Maranda: Yeah! How’s it goin’?

Good, how are you, man?

Just fine.

Could you please tell our readers about your work with Black Tiger Sex Machine?

When we started making music in Montreal, over like, 12 years ago, we were just doing it for fun. We were just starting to DJ. We loved French artists like Justice. We loved that style of music that was a little more crossover between house and electro. So we were mostly DJing some house music, like Fake Blood and Armand van Helden, we were into that. That was mostly for fun and they were small events in Montreal.

How did that change as you all performed more?

We went to see Justice play in Montreal. We saw the potential that electronic music had in North America. It was closer to my background in punk rock and heavy metal where people come in and live the event, experience the music together, with the artists.

How would you describe such experiences?

Very communal—with this underlying idea of being with people. People don’t really know how mosh pits came about. But I’m fairly certain they’re part of this feeling of wanting deliverance from the norm, to be delivered from everyday life. Like, I was in the mosh pit at Justice and I thought, “This doesn’t make sense, it’s not punk music.” But it feels right. So I came out of that show and was like, “Let’s see if this can be something more serious.” I also liked the visual experience that Justice had.

What happened next?

We started this event in Montreal called Kannibalen.

That’s the German word for cannibal, que no? It’s also the name of your record label, right?

Exactly. We were doing electronic music, but I wouldn’t call it EDM. EDM as a thing, as a title, wasn’t really there yet. They were selling out all the time and so we decided to form the record label with similar artists. The light show, the helmets, weren’t originally there. They came about when the label started. We wanted to do something more.

What will people see and hear now?

Now, what people will see in Albuquerque this weekend is the full show. It’s very immersive, very focused on production. Everything we do, from the lights to the visuals to the samples, to the live keyboards and percussion—and of course the helmets—create another universe. It’s really this entire world that we try to create.

Whipped Cream

Whipped Cream
Whipped Cream
In that other universe, the realm of electronica where we’re all one—where dreams are apparently possible and might become reality with the next breakbeat—there’s always room for reality, as long as that reality is good, gracious and full of flava.

Such is the case with with Whipped Cream, aka Caroline Cecil, an intelligent and driven EDM artist from the North Woods. Whipped Cream listens to the many musical sounds made on planet Earth, distilling her experience into a performance that wraps itself around listeners—offering affiliation and transcendence from the norm in an uplifting but super-bass-heavy environment.

Weekly Alibi talked to Ms. Cecil about her work and, man, was it fun. Here’s a part of that conversation—and another brilliant reason to go ch-ch-check out SOMOS this Saturday.

Whipped Cream: Hey August!

Weekly Alibi: Hey, Caroline! How ya doing?

I’m Fine.

I really want to talk about your work and about your upcoming appearance at SOMOS.

Okay. Absolutely. I’d love to say some stuff.

I read that you came up listening to a lot of R&B, old school rap and soul music and that those experiences really influenced you when you decided to start making your own music. Discuss.

I grew up in a household full of music. From a very young age, my dad had tons of people playing, like Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Tina Turner. I grew up in Toronto so I listened to, lived in an area that was very hip-hop driven. So the stuff I was listening to was Aaliyah, Ja Rule, André 3000—and all that stuff has kind of stuck with me. Some of it is in the sets that I play today.

Wow. And what sort of music are you creating now?

The music I’m creating now, during this time, is sort of coming full circle. I’ve started doing more R&B and hip-hop records.

I know some critics have characterized your work as bass music with a heavy house influence, but how would you describe what you do?

I think it’s really the listener’s [decision]. For me, I really want the listeners to describe it for themselves. I always call my music “Your Experience” music. That’s what I would call my genre.

So now there’s a subgenre within EDM called “Your Experience”? I can dig that.

Yes! It’s all about individual experience. What you’ve heard from me, what’s out now, could be categorized as anything from being really detailed, from cinematic to heavier bass, to you know, dark industrial music. The thing is, the stuff I’m sitting on right now is completely different. This project is always going to evolve whenever I change. That’s the beauty of being an electronic producer is that I don’t need to stick to anything; I can make anything on my computer.

Are each of your sets different? Is there any improvisation?

Yeah, absolutely. I mean one thing that stays the same, one thing that I give to a crowd that’s never going to change is the energy we share. It’s always going to be there. But my sets are always changing. I do have my favorite songs, but a lot of my sets are improvised. I’ll have a playlist going in—and of course being prepared is the number one thing, I’ll spend weeks just trying to figure out the intro to a set—but part of the set means playing off the crowd’s energy. Some crowds like more rock. Some crowds like more dubstep or drum and bass. I’m vibing off of their energy!

Why should humans come and check you out at SOMOS?

That’s a great question! I’ve never had a question like that! Well if you love music, if you love having a good time, and you just want to connect—but you want to connect—I think my show is the perfect place to be at. My hope with my art and what I do here on this earth is to awaken people. If I can make someone feel good, make them feel something new—that’s the power of music, the power of what I’m doing.