Contemporary club music from Texas with an eerie touch and a persuasive melodrama.
Santa Muerte mix contemporary club music, hip-hop and reggaeton with a healthy helping of goth. The Houston duo's name refers to the Mexican personification of death and their records often reference magic, religion and the occult. It is dance music, sure, but it also inspires doubt and introspection. Santa Muerte's style came together during the rise of rap producers like Metro Boomin, whose beats on tracks like Future's "Mask Off" were made from a similar brew of hedonism and nihilism—a sleek sort of emptiness. It's in that empty space, like the vastness of the Texas desert, where Sines and Panchitron, the duo behind Santa Muerte, have found their power.
Diluvio, their first album, feels vast compared to their EPs, even though it only comes in just short of 30 minutes. The title means "flood," and the LP, loosely inspired by the story of Noah's Ark, contains the duo's most melodramatic beats so far. The ambient passages evoke sparse landscapes. The basslines rumble. The pads are stark. Guttural grunts are repurposed as percussion. The music isn't exactly inviting, but its funereal atmosphere is gripping—imagine early Bauhaus or "The Hanging Garden" gone trap.
Santa Muerte are club music polyglots whose past work has explored trap, reggaeton, grime and dembow. Here, they even try their hand at gqom, albeit clad in goth clothing. On "Ritmo De Selva," the thrust of the genre turns into an uneasy groan. "Aerial Rhythm" recalls a beatless devil mix, whose hi-hats and bass thrusts sound beautiful in Santa Muerte's sound world, if not a little dated. There are tracks in their reggaeton-adjacent comfort zone. Then there's the jittery "Laceration," which hinges on NAAFI-style tribal. Each track is tinged with Santa Muerte's morbid aura.
The spellbinding interlude "Noah's Pain" features some brooding quotes from Matthew McConaughey's character in True Detective. It's a goofy thing to include, calling to mind the old dubstep penchant for gruff-sounding movie dialogue. This highlights another dimension of Santa Muerte's music—a taste for melodrama that works in spite of itself. "Cuz Of U," the album's best track, has weeping chords that recall Vangelis, which in turn makes me think of Kuedo's classic album Severant. But there's something different about Santa Muerte's take. Instead of Blade Runner sci-fi vistas, it evokes earthier, Southern Gothic landscapes.
"Cuz Of U," an elegant and mournful trap instrumental, embodies what's special about Santa Muerte. The duo get their point across with economical arrangements and three-dimensional sound design with a touch of the occult. It's a testament to Santa Muerte that the LP features so many collaborations with contemporaries from the club scene (Los Angeles's TenTwentySeven, ZutZut and Lao from NAAFI) without disturbing the duo's studied, stately mood. On Diluvio, Santa Muerte turn contemporary club music into haunted, eerie elegies.
Tracklist01. Sin Lagrimas (Intro)
03. Ritmo De Selva feat. TenTwentySeven
04. Diluvio w/ Zutzut
05. Aerial Rhythm feat. Lao & NNOA
06. Noah's Pain (Interlude)
07. No Drip
08. Cuz Of U (Instrumental)
10. Prayer (Outro)