Text by CLOT Magazine
Mixtape 23 sees Mexican artist Lorena Quintanilla crafting a selection of tunes to warm the late November afternoons.
Originally from Guadalajara (México), the artist made a name for herself as one-half of Lorelle Meets The Obsolete, a duo responsible for some of the most sonically adventurous psych experimentalism of recent times with a reputation for exceptional live shows.
Now relocated to the less hectic city of Ensenada in Baja California, Quintanilla has reinvented herself into J. Zunz a new solo project where she explores similar atmospherics but marks a distance from what she had been doing with the obsolete. J.Zunz is the result of a metamorphic process whereby the minimal is rendered maximal and the personal fused with the political.
The initial vision for the J. Zunz project was for Lorena to strip her approach down to the basics. She remembers reading a biography of John Cage, where the author was referring to the influence of Buddhism and meditation, and modern artists like Sonia Delaunay, Lucio Fontana, Julio Le Parc, Duchamp, futurism… that detonated something inside her and sparked a myriad of ideas.
Earlier in August, J. Zunz published her second album, Hibiscus (Rocket Recordings), which takes its name from one of the most popular flowers in her native Mexico. The album marks a move on sonically from earlier comfort zones in her work into minimal electronics, hypnotic repetition and compelling trance states, arriving at a soundworld in which cyclical synth patterns, eerie ambient textures and cathartic vocal exhortations.
It is hard to describe any record as they keep unfolding to me in time, says Lorena. Now it is almost a year since I recorded it. What I know is that I wrote the album during a personal crisis inside and a political crisis outside. After being profoundly hurt by a person, I trusted but also by the structures outside of me. I wrote it during sleepless nights filled with overwhelming thoughts and feelings. The collection of tracks in Hibiscus are sinuous, enticing and mysterious; one may feel a bit spooked while wishing this mischievous journey never finishes.
For this mixtape, Lorena was inspired by the content of CLOT Mag: I selected some tracks by INTERSPECIFICS, which is an amazing collective that mixes science with music. I chose some tracks that use the translation of different microorganisms and their bioelectrical activity into sound. I also added a track by Alexandra Cárdenas (a master at LiveCoding) and some political electronics from the past. The artists behind the track Ola! have been experimenting with mind and body healing through sound frequencies. I know they have a mattress filled with subwoofers where you can rest while you are feeling the vibrations.
You mention that reading about John Cage triggered the inception of your new solo album. What was the creative process like, and what were other influences or inspirations behind it?
I was looking for a solid pattern as a starting point. I focused on textures and tried not to overthink the songs. Abstract paintings were an important inspiration for the album as well. It was more about using some geometry with the sounds rather than thinking in regular structures.
What have you technically been exploring with it? And what were the challenges during its production?
As most of the sounds were recorded straight into the interface, the challenge was created artificially, with effects and tricks, the space and dimensions. Also, translating specific sounds that I had in my head into reality was a big challenge, like recreating the sound of the wind with a synth, etc.
During its recording, you were dealing with a personal crisis inside and a political crisis outside, a situation that may feel similar for some these days. What were your biggest reflections after that time, going through emotional distress about the same time as producing a beautiful album?
It strengthened my relationship with the music, and it reminded me that being in action and working on something relieves the panic and anxiety of feeling trapped in a situation. Something that has proved useful these days.
What is your relationship with technology nowadays, and how do you use it for your practice? And how do you cope with technology (screen/digital) overload?
In my personal experience being isolated, stressed and watching a screen is not a good combination. I try to be more involved in manual work. I only use technology when it’s necessary, like for video chatting with friends or for ordering something online, apart from recording, emails, etc.