Because good music journalism is a dying artform – or, depending on your politics, alive and kicking – I asked a small group of hardcore, unforgiving music nerds to review Role-play, my debut LP. I imposed no word limit, but did request an objective opinion. The following critique, which has not been manipulated or edited in any way, is part of a pending batch of reviews. I’ll be publishing all of them in the following weeks.
Simply put, Maracuyeah is one the coolest DJ duos this side of the hemisphere. Mafe & rAt, two spunky Latinas, formed the collective as a way to cultivate a fun, multicultural party setting, and everyone from the Washington Post to Univision have taken notice. I normally don’t believe any hype, but after sharing a sound system with Maracuyeah last year, where we had a back-and-forth DJ duel, I left D.C., the collective’s birthplace, knowing I rubbed shoulders with two hardcore music nerds. Still, you shouldn’t take my word for it — just find out for yourself.
Maracuyeah reviews P3CULIAR’s Role-play
By Kristy, AKA DJ rAt
They say there’s a soundtrack for every great aventura. P3CULIAR’s debut album Role-play is packed with alluring discoteca gems, trippy tropical numbers, and smart Latin avant-garde references; and on first listen it takes me back to a very important personal aventura – my first delicious encounters into the gay, club underground of Lima, Peru.
The gritty-glam weirdo parties that neither hipsters nor boys with expensive cars went to. The rare club where you could request a Fangoria remix and a Don Omar banger, and the DJ would honor both, followed by some cult Latin pop throwback, electronica, or a Monique Pardo technocumbia. The nights Giuseppe and I – sabia travesti & baby queer – danced until ya no puedo más [I tired out]. That era, that aventura, shaped my conviction that dance floors and their music content should reflect the fluidity of the genders and sexualities of people who shake their asses in those spaces. And I found a new subterranean world with totally different parameters.
The overall feel of Role-play is that of a favorite underground dance party, with the songs’ anthemic lyrical hooks & juicy ritmos joining everybody together. Production is decidedly high-quality and clean, but many playful elements (e.g. retro space laser sound samples, robot-y distorted notes) still suggest Marcelo is more interested in creativity than couth.
For me, Role-Play is a standout discoteca meltdown album. First, because of its form: dancebeat focused, with short & addictive looping that you can imagine raging all night to with your girlfriends. Second, because P3CULIAR draws together a potent set of musical micro-genres and subcultures for an aesthetic boom – you can hear strong references to the 80s/90s Spanish Avant Garde movement (think of everyone from Alaska to Aerolineas Federales) with early 2000s Electroclash stylings as well (Miss Kittin on Spanglish?), not to mention kitschy cumbia, indie-electro-disco beats, and unabashed 80s pop de las Americas.
Role-play opens with “Hazme el Amor,” a quirky cumbiaton that quite literally invites the listener in, with an eerie voice and Eastern dance harmonies and backup vox. “Hazme el Amor” and “Star” are their own very distinct cumbia singles, each experimental in different directions, while landing soundly in their own appeal – P3CULIAR knows a good cumbia and you can hear him freaking certain elements, while leveraging the natural bewitching powers of the genre.
The second track “Wicked” opens up the electro door of Role-play, dipping into industrial-touched, dark club rhythms, and conjuring up a dangerous and exciting underworld in just the first bars. (“Party Girl” and “Look So Good” are bangers as well, in similar veins. And if you missed the album’s first single “Menea” complete with its deluxe video clip, watch it now for a great entry experience into the Role-Play world.) And then comes the singing voice – sugary, provocative, semi-naive femmey lines, sung by Marcelo, who in various vocal roles on this album technologically “gender-bends” his voice as he sees fit for each melody. (Marcelo presents this as an accident that worked. While listening to his album I also reflected in appreciation on his legacy of creating open party spaces in NY, with content reflecting immigrant and queered experiences, and I also wondered about how that role of curator/organizer came into play in his production and role-playing.)
I can’t finish without talking about the 80s retro pop moments on the album because, ironically to some, I do believe that well handled pop is at the center of a good underground experience. It’s still got the power of a universal reference point and, if you can werk it, it can werk. P3CULIAR covers Yuri’s “Yo Te Amo, Te Amo” getting it club-ready and hot, and then also does the English language “Walk Under the Moonlight” which called out to me as an updated and sassy cousin to “I Think We’re Alone Now.” Werked.
There’s no doubt that Role-play is intentionally dark, even gothy throughout, and it finds fun ways to contrast creepy and sweet elements in a way that is clearly irreverent, even comical at times. In doing so, Role-play avoids the vapid taste that even some of this album’s would-be predecessors may have had. I love that Virgin/Whore themes are touched on, among many more, and love that the leap is made from DJ sets to productions all his own – tropisabor of Marcelo’s own creation.
It’s freed-up and oozing with sexiness. And yes, it reminds me of that underground Club Frescura back in Lima – where for extra fun you could go to the “dark rooms” in the basement, and grope around with others in the pitch black, with only lavish electronica pulses guiding the way.