Where do we begin? Let’s start with LowKeyMoves, a new collective founded by Felix M. Dowell -manager of Alizzz, with one foot in the USA and with worldwide renown- and dj Lowprofile, working with strong artists like Noaipre and younger producers such as Bones López. “Our motivation is none other than being able to listen and dance to the music we like with people we admire and respect, and we saw that if we didn’t do it, nobody would. We also want LowKeyMoves to serve as a context to collaborate with friends across UK, Spain and Europe who are working in the same direction”, says Dowell. They have brought together several key characters in the local scene, through hosting parties of grime-bass-future club beats at Garage 442, one of the new venues that had recently opened in the city. What’s more, they have a regular show on dublab.es, the Spanish sister of the American station.
A good barometer of how Barcelona’s nightlife is changing is, precisely, the opening of new venues: it’s been ages since we’ve witnessed such an amount of small clubs that can compete with giants like Razzmatazz, Apolo and Moog. In addition to the aforementioned Garage 442, which started in September last year, in February the Lapsus collective added to their label, festival and a radio show by opening LAUT, a medium capacity room in Poble Sec focusing on experimental club music with a line-up in June that will feature, amongst several other attractive nights, a showcase of one of the most interesting new labels in the city, Banned In Vegas. As is the case with many venues, they have had to balance the running of a nightclub with their relationship with their neighbours, and soundproofing issues caused a closure of several months this year. Most recently two more venues have been added to the circuit, Red58 and Gauss, the latter being an old strip club turned into a vintage discotheque.
“we believe there is a gap between what the audience demands and the city offers“
Other collectives growing and bringing fresh air to the Barcelona nights are Kommuna, lovers of deep house, electro and minimal who recently celebrated their second anniversary at Red58, and Club Marabú, run by the people behind Canada, a record label with international pedigree and many years of work behind them. Marabú is a monthly night of new electronic R&B and dancehall hybrids at the Upload club in Poble Espanyol. Alba Blasi, one of the project heads, says that her idea was always “to promote a medium format club that would be able to bring interesting acts that we found on Soundcloud or YouTube that we couldn´t hear in any other club in the city”. Little by little they have gained a “restless, creative and very young audience, who often can only find much of the music they listen on the internet in Marabú”. They’ve booked new trap and dancehall stars like Bad Gyal and Somadamantina, and djs with increasingly significant status like the Galician world disco digger and radio host Abu Sou, and electronic experimental DJ/producer Ylia, born in Alicante but now a resident in Barcelona. Internationally respected acts such as El Guincho, Kindness and Jam City have also made an appearance.
There are many more artists, collectives and labels moving around and making Barcelona a centre for innovative music in Europe. Some honourable mentions: the people behind the noisy and avant-garde Bicefal festival, also running the label Hedonic Reversal; the successful Trill and Fuego parties at Razz; the new space for small underground gigs El Pumarejo, located in the Vallcarca neighborhood; and of course record stores like Discos Paradiso -who will soon launch a reissues label, Urpa i Musell-, Ultra-Local Records and Rhythm Control, managed by the DJ Tony Bruce Lee.
So, is Barcelona a good place to start an underground project? “If you had asked me a couple of years ago would be a straight NO, but today we believe that the city is more open than ever to new music movements away from the usual house and techno script” says Dowell, with the caveat, “despite this, we believe there is a gap between what the audience demands and the city offers. In that sense, it is really important and appreciated that rooms and promoters such as Garage 442 with us, or the Razz with Trill and Fuego, are taking more risks”. Blasi adds that “Barcelona is indeed a good place, because there are many young creative people aiming for new things, although it is true that the audience is quite fragmented in small scenes, so the volume of people involved in each scene is unclear”.