It’s never easy to accept the changes that come along with a city’s transformation, especially if it’s happening in the city where you grew up and one you continue calling home. For producer Camilo Lara there was only one thing to do as things around him changed – create an album honoring the Mexico he once knew, a Mexico now almost completely gone. Through his project, Mexican Institute of Sound, comes Distrito Federal – “a love letter from Camilo to his city, a city that no longer exists, but lives in mental photographs.”
Distrito Federal includes guest appearances by Sergio Mendoza, Dan The Automator (Gorillaz), Graham Coxon (Blur), Duckwrth, BIA, Cuco, Banda Misteriosa and La Perla from Colombia. Although the complete catalog of sounds won’t fully debut until early 2021, “Dios” was released, along with this cool new video, as a preview of all the brilliance left to discover.
Distrito Federal begins with “Se Compran” a wonderfully harmonized and chorus-filled dramatization of street vendors slangin’ their wares with random call outs, in this case, the Paulsimonesque intro to the album opens with church-like chanting, repeating “se compran colchones, tambores, refrigeradooores…” It’s breathtaking as it takes a turn with glaring guitars into an explosive madness of sound aka Camilo be trippin’ y’all, but always in the best way possible.
“Dios” is the fabulous and crazy cumbia featured above and on the album it’s followed by “El Antidoto,” arriving subtly, a little darker with the added fierceness of La Perla. Although there’s plenty of cumbia, there’s also some rumba, electronica, rap and hip-hop, mariachi and banda horns, synths and percussion galore, a little dream pop, and an array of vintage sounds, noise and samples that only Mexican Institute of Sound can handle.
Hearing the creativity that went into an anthem like “My America Is Not Your America,” with Graham Coxon is mind-blowing, especially when taking into consideration all that’s going on yet it’s all coalescing so effortlessly. What a stellar symphony of unusual sounds. And that ending? Ugh. It’s unexpected and ultimately superb. To follow that monstrosity with with “La Balada de La Aspirina,” well, this man is a genius! Distrito Federal is Mexican Institute of Sound’s most sublime creation to date.
In a recent phone call with Camilo, he told us all about the historical context surrounding the name of his new album, his thoughts on the crux of Mexican culture and tells us if he’d really ask for quesadillas if he ever ran into God.
[Note: The full interview, en español, can be found on the Lumpen Radio Mixcloud for Future Rootz here and below.]
I was listening to your new album, Distrito Federal, your tribute to Mexico City and wondered if this was something that you were working on during the pandemic or was this already something you had been working on?
Yes, I had been working on this album for about three to four years now and when we thought about finally releasing it, the pandemic started. Then we thought, ‘well now how are we going to do this?’ So I thought about it for a while and decided to release the album in October. I also realized that maybe everyone, just like me, was looking for interesting things to see, and listening to a lot of music and watching a lot of movies, and so I think it was worth it, you know? We’ll see what happens.
We played “Dios” and what a great cumbion, especially with that funny twist… how did the song come to be and are those your favorite Mexican dishes?
Good question because I don’t know if those are my favorite dishes. According to me, the best… well, they could bury me with some tacos al pastor, probably.
But, I was thinking about this idea that, well, someone told me today in the morning that if you crushed a Mexican he would be like about 30% water, about 30% blood, and 30% corn because we are a tortilla. Our body is made of tortillas, of all the millions of tortillas that we have eaten for years and years. I feel that in the corn, in the tortillas, there is a god and that its made by hands that made them with love and then you eat them. And that is an act of God.
And it was a little bit like thinking about these ideas of the crossroads – you find God and the devil, where you would go? And rather the question is ‘which one would you go with?’ and ‘what would you ask of each one of them?’ And that was a little bit the idea to think that there is also good and evil in the tortillas we eat on the streets.
The record is a kind of love letter to Distrito Federal, which is no longer called Distrito Federal it’s called Ciudad de Mexico. It is a city that has changed its name four times. The Aztecs arrived and built on top of a lake, and then came the Spaniards and built on top of the Aztecs. And then the Mexicans on top of the Spaniards, so, it has been a city of disaster, always… like a pastel del mil hojas, putting one layer on top of another. And the layer I lived through as a child was Distrito Federal.
Your favorite name for the city is Distrito Federal?
Well, yes… now it’s called CDMX and I don’t like it at all. It’s like when Madonna changed her name to MDNA… (laughs).
Distrito Federal is due in early 2021.
For more information visit:
Mexican Institute of Sound – Instituto Mexicano del Sonido
More About Mexican Institute of Sound
“Mexican Institute of Sound, the brainchild of Camilo Lara, creates irresistible beats for the global dance floor. At home in Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Lagos, Mumbai or New York, Camilo ́’s music is the sound of the new capitals of world culture, thumping into the night. Brash and bright, his live shows can only be described as punk performances that bring down the house every single time. This ethos has taken him around the globe, performing in every single continent.
His work has landed him 1 Grammy and 4 Latin Grammy nominations, and he has produced artists ranging from Los Angeles Azules (scoring the best selling Mexican album of the last 25 years, 8 times diamond certified sales), Lila Downs, Norah Jones and Band of Horses. He has remixed Beck, the Beastie Boys, Interpol, among others. He has collaborated with a wide range of artists including Cuco, Ludmilla, Bonde do Rolé, Sly & Robbie, Toots and the Maytails, Gogol Bordello, Tom Tom Club. He hosts his own radio station on the best selling game of all times, Grand Theft Auto V. He was the musical consultant for Pixar’s Coco (where he even had a cameo!), and his music has been featured in Narcos, Breaking Bad, Y tu mamá también, Californication, Ugly Betty, to name a few. Numerous brands have used his music for major US national campaigns including Apple, Target, H&M, Lexus and Best Buy. Spanish newspaper El Pais named him one of the “50 Most Influential People in Latin America”. Quien magazine named him one of the “50 People Who Are Transforming Mexico” He stays busy.” – IMS