Sounds Like: The score to a Puerto Rican retelling of Boogie Nights
For Fans of: Helado Negro, Goldfrapp, Glass Candy
Why You Should Pay Attention: Under the Spanish moniker for "troublemaker," Brooklyn-based electronic duo Raquel Berrios and Luis Alfredo Del Valle are accelerating a delicious new wave of Latin alternative sounds, ripe with unabashed sensuality and buffed with a vintage Seventies sparkle. The pair met in New York, when Berrios played a house show in a cheeky two-woman folk-punk band called En Teta. They hit it off at once, both creatively and romantically. The two were later scouted by Dev Hynes (a.k.a. Blood Orange), who would produce their silken 2014 EP, Caer. That same year, the band's song "Métele" themed the critically acclaimed documentary film Mala Mala, which spotlights transgender communities in Puerto Rico. Of their new EP, II, Berrios says, "We're fighting so hard to make this work – while paying rent, raising a kid – there's a new aggressiveness here. The spirit of the hustle is embedded in this record."
With their two-year-old daughter Charlie in tow, they joined Helado Negro – who features in the new EP – on the Northeast leg of his recent U.S. tour. "We played from Boston to Baltimore with a toddler in the back," says Berrios. "One night we had to stay extra late, sitting with the baby in a green room, with all these dicks drawn on the wall. I was like, 'We have to get the fuck outta here. Are we doing the right thing? What are we putting our child through?'"
Alfredo Del Valle describes Helado Negro as "a samurai," who mollified the band with encouragement. "He described it as a breakthrough," says Alfredo Del Valle, "We played our best show that night.
"Now, we look to the Paul and Linda McCartney in Wings example," he laughs.
"Well, they had a ton of money, and a staff. … And the worst hair," says Berrios.
"But we've gotten to Mexico, Costa Rica, Chile," says Del Valle. "We make it work."
They Say: In the video for "Tártaro," filmed in the Rococo kitsch of San Juan's Hotel OK, Berrios tiptoes across the tiles in ankle socks and sinks into a heart-shaped tub. "In Puerto Rico, the sex motel is a countercultural thing," she says. "There's a strip in a town called Caguas, full of kooky sex motels. I lived with my parents through college, so I used to go there with my boyfriends, or hang out and drink with my friends. I was really inspired by the author Mayra Santos-Febres – while she was going through a divorce, she rented a room at a sex motel to write books and get peace and quiet. Cut to my obsession with Frankie Ruiz, who's like this seedy Eighties salsero with a gold chain, loves coke and women, but has the most beautiful voice. I wrote "Tártaro" as a tribute to him, and wanted to film the video in a sex motel. We took Adam [Uhl], the cinematographer from Mala Mala – but the motel has a strict two-person policy, so we had to hide him in the trunk. It was like we were robbing a bank. We even brought cleaning products because everything was sticky, it was so gross."
Hear for Yourself: "Tártaro" is a beguiling revamp of Eighties salsa erótica, stimulated by Berrios' softcore purr. Suzy Exposito