Photo by Andres Schwerer
softchaos For Cult Classic Radio
Blending genres across diaspora through an exploration of texture, percussive rhythms, and experimental sound is the quintessence of softchaos, a key member and resident DJ of the art collective, Toro. Working as an artist, they are often deconstructing cultural tradition, using a diverse set of means to engage this practice: sound; performance; archival research; nightlife, and visual work – where the lines between forms are often fluid. This mix in particular, rather than a dance set, is a cathartic mass of aggressive percussive elements, protest lyrics, and melodic playfulness to render a sonic story of refusal to our current moment of unrest. It is a love letter to trans families making life happen in the face of duress.
How would you describe your mix?
This mix isn’t for dancing, it’s a letter to my trans family back home and the ones I have here. I’d say this one is pretty aggressive, emotional, playful, too fast to dance to but the right speed to tell a story. Hopefully transgressive. A percussive study, maybe? I allowed myself to experiment and break the rules without the forethought of dancing, but with the focus of affective release. I had been spending a lot of time reflecting on being away from more traditional roles in community care, and I have been feeling the distance of being away from my chosen family in the United States. Honestly the mix is wild. It’s also a love letter to trans families finding ways to make things work. To Alex and Princess especially. I hope that makes sense.
What are some of the images that you chose to represent this mix and why?
1. Unai LaFuente: Resentimiento (2022) - @wicboyx
This image represents the beginning of queer friendships that have carried me in the last year. Both the photographer, Wicboyx, and the model, Engalanan (@engalanan) are both people I deeply appreciate, this image in particular holds tenderness in its grit and strength. The amount of care here and vulnerability is something I respect.
2. Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley: 3d video rendering still (2022) - @ladydangfua
Braithwaite-Shirley’s work felt like an immediate call to action when I first encountered it. I feel like their work does heavy lifting with regards to intellectually bringing punk into art discourse, in that she consistently states that art speaks back, bucking the stale tradition of static work. In that, I’ve found direction sonically. Also, everything she makes breaks and simultaneously lights a part of me, and for that I’m appreciative.
3. Tony Cokes: Disco isn’t dead: Evil.16 (2019) - @cokes_tony
I remember seeing Tony Cokes' work in person for the first time at MACBA in Barcelona and being floored at his focus on translating the notion of copyeditor to that of someone who samples, mixes and creates versions of texts or ideas. Personally, that has been a compelling way to think of how to blend text and the logic(s) of sound.
"Disco isn’t dead. It has gone to war." is a statement that holds multiple degrees of importance. What could be read as a claim in refusal of anti-black violence during the vinyl burning of disco albums in Chicago in 1979 at Comisky Park was simultaneously a claim that music was being used as a tool of violence by the state. That fucked me up.
4. Jesse Kanda: Fawn (2017) - @truekanda
Kanda’s work sometimes feels like it approaches creature-play, with real texture versus unreal shapes and it is often uncomfortable to view. I like that. The fawn is still alive, although it clearly isn't. This image in particular has been stored away in my brain as a beautiful reference to the reverence of queer resilience. Resilience is finicky, and however unfortunate that we need to be resilient, it's something we have in abundance.
Favorite genres to DJ? Favorite BPMs?
I try not to focus on genre, but I do tend toward groove-driven electronic music. On a friend's suggestion, I’ve been listening to a lot of Lyra Pramuk, who feels genre-less. But i’d be lying if I didn’t say techno, Baltimore club, drum and bass, and breaks. But honestly, so much good music coming out has me excited to break whatever I think I like and play around more with textures and genres. BPM-wise, it's a wide range I can groove at 145 but hold my ground at speedier tempos like 160. Certain genres were meant to be played fast, I try to respect that.
Tell us a little bit about Toro, the collective you’re a part of and what makes the music scene in Barcelona special?
Toro (@tor00000000) is an arts platform, that my two friends Wicboyx and Engalanan and myself run out of Barcelona. They really are those girls, my babes. Toro was one of my first real havens in a city that really hadn’t carved out space for disabled, queer and openly anti-racist approaches to building a scene. With that being said, the people that come to our events and support our work are special. They really love new music and are subversive community members in their own right. I feel particularly lucky to curate with them in mind, because they definitely push us to think with more rigor about what the fuck we’re really doing when we build events.
What is one of your best dancefloor memories?
Honestly, seeing AceMoMa open for Jeff Mills at Horst 2021. I literally cried seeing that shit. So first, MoMa Ready and AceMo absolutely fucking smash it – then Jeff Mills came out and blew everyone away. By the time The Bells was on, I was on a different planet, babes. All three artists came through with such a mastery of craft and dexterity that everyone was in a collective groove. I’ve never experienced anything like it before.