Following an impressive showing on the Pirata 4 compilation last summer, NY-via-MX producer DEBIT releases her debut album Animus, and the first-ever full-length released by Mexican club label N.A.A.F.I. Michelle Lhooq caught up with DEBIT to talk about the album’s exploration of gender and sexuality, as well as her relationship to the Latinx club music diaspora.
DEBIT demonstrated her knack for arranging disparate sounds last summer on N.A.A.F.I. mixtape Pirata 4. A bootleg of Missy Elliott’s ‘Get Ur Freak On’ set to Angolan tarraxa rhythms and a track that pit J.Quiles’s reggaeton balladry against Amnesia Scanner’s alien synths proved her aptitude for seamless and unexpected genre melding. But her standout contribution to the tape is a haunting ambient track based on a stretched-out Bad Bunny vocal. Her work serves as a reminder that club music is just as much of a pursuit of the mind as it is the body.
Today, the Mexico-born, New York-based producer releases her debut album, Animus, which also happens to be the first full-length LP N.A.A.F.I. has ever released. A cross-genre hybrid of ambient and Latin club, the record is haunted by uneasy, otherworldly atmospheres with disembodied vocal samples and layers of razor-edged reverb. Cavernous echoes of industrial drums and ominous synths on tracks like ‘Audacious’ and ‘Remain’ make them fit for a rave below the surface of the earth, while ethereal hymns ‘Inflection’ and ‘Epigone’ shimmer with elegiac beauty.
FACT spoke to DEBIT about her interest in genre hybrids, the Latinx club music diaspora and the meaning behind “animus”.
Your album straddles the line between ambient and club music. Did crossing these genres open new artistic possibilities for you?
Ambient is a good way to explore emotionally appealing aspects of music that are secondary to lyrics or beat patterns in other other genres. My dance music already had strong elements of atmospheric textures, and I wanted to prioritize tones, harmonics and less-defined note progressions over typical or elaborate melodies. Crossing these genres didn’t feel like a huge stretch, but putting the two together within a single body of work did yield new ground – it created tension and movement that perhaps I couldn’t have done within the constraints of a single genre.
What’s your definition of “animus” and how did you investigate it on this album?
I first read about animus in [poet and psychoanalyst] Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ Women Who Run With the Wolves. It is the masculine energy in women and the struggle of finding and placating this energy within yourself as a process of empowerment. I was thinking about gender and how we represent ourselves sexually, reconciling the personal with the societal. A strong animus helps us travel between an underworld and top-side world. The album provides sounds that facilitate this journey. We hear both the static and clashing of the psychological underworld, and the “beat” – beating heart, flesh – of the top-side, physical world. The music is my own exploration of what inside me can travel between worlds.
Your N.A.A.F.I. labelmate Mexican Jihad once said: “[N.A.A.F.I.] projects aren’t necessarily trying to sell themselves as something Latin or as something Mexican—the people that are part of N.A.A.F.I. are not interested in the Latin aspect of a culture, or this segmentation.” As a Mexico-born, New York-based producer who has also lived in Buenos Aires and Santiago, what is your relationship to the Latinx club music diaspora?
It seems to be an American marketing strategy to categorize within an ethnic rubric. This shows how the US low-key prioritizes a white/black binary and the rest of us are seen as others. Latinidad music currently seems conflated with tropicália, global bass or reggaeton [and] dembow. Fortunately for us, it is so much more than that.
In Mexico, people can be especially harsh on US Latinos because we have resources and access they generally don’t, but we take up similar space in the cultural market. I can’t say making Latino music is the engine of my creation or my main selling point, although I very much consider my work to be Latino because I was raised, informed and influenced by the work being made in this socio-geographic zone. Having a relationship with the motherland has always been really important to me, but I need to contribute to the conversation. I don’t want my relationship to be symbolic or discursive. I think I’ve been a facilitator to the diaspora by hosting and sharing my resources with Latin producer/DJ friends that need to come to the US. These are not business relationships for me. I want to live it out as a political and poetic act.
Animus is available now on Bandcamp.
Michelle Lhooq is an LA-based journalist writing about music and weed. Find her on Twitter.