Like soccer, the current electronic dance music craze arrived late to South America after being invented decades earlier and thousands of miles away. But as eventually happened with fútbol, the prodigies of Latin America are schooling the rest of the world in how to play the game.
The reasons for South America's surging EDM scene should be obvious. Take a region rich in compelling beats (salsa, cumbia, mambo, merengue, vallenato, reggaeton) and melodic textures that are ripe for digital sampling and splicing. Add a supply of aspirational clubs and record labels in cities like Buenos Aires, Bogotá and Santiago.
Then stir the mix and remix it with a growing number of smart, sophisticated DJ-producer collectives like ZZK, the Buenos Aires label and one-stop-shopping party-thrower. Suddenly, you've got an intriguing and fresh-sounding EDM scene that's not only nurturing home-grown talent and global nomads like the tango-suffused, Paris-based Gotan Project but also attracting expatriate DJs, label owners and digital entrepreneurs from Europe and the United States.
One of the most promising is El G, né Grant C. Dull (pronounced Duel), a transplanted Texan who's been earning his keep and polishing his Spanish slang in Argentina since 1999, gradually transitioning from musicologist and online magazine editor to DJ-curator and head of the Buenos Aires-based ZZK Records label.
El G turned up late Wednesday night (actually early Thursday morning) at Eastside Luv to spin a set as part of the Boyle Heights club's monthly Subsuelo dance party. The gringo-porteño DJ opened his hourlong guest gig with a snatch of the crunching symphonic chords of Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries."
That might seem a little portentous if not pretentious. But ZZK unabashedly aims to take the dance floor by storm in coming years, as implied by the title of its 2012 breakthrough compilation, "Future Sounds of Buenos Aires."
Many virtues of that standout disc were on display at Eastside Luv as El G conjured an arresting array of digital cumbia beats, reverb-y reggaeton raps and the hybrid dubbed cumbia villera. El G clearly also has absorbed the electro-tropical-pop experiments of groups like Colombia's Bomba Estéreo. Synthetic traps and snares augmented Subsuelo's live ad-libbed percussionists.
More intriguing, at least to this listener, was the way El G colored his irresistible grooves with a melodic palette that was several shades darker than the happy-go-lucky, brassy harmonics of the digital ranchera and cumbia usually heard at this end of the hemisphere. If not quite Wagnerian, it was as much New Order as nueva onda. (For a sample of this exhilaratingly melancholy flavor, give a listen to El Trip Selector's "Coombia del Piano Triste" on "Future Sounds.")
The Eastside Luv dance crowd, though considerably thinned out by 1 a.m., appeared mostly entranced by the set but occasionally caught flat-footed by a couple of start-and-stop rhythmic shifts. Whether these sounds represent the future of Spanish-language EDM or not, for the present they're tough to top.