While the internet’s universality means once-inaccessible traditional and indigenous styles of music across the planet can be appropriated, sampled, and commodified with ease; it also means they can be integrated and celebrated, reflecting humanity’s idiosyncrasies as well as our shared communality. Montoya, recently signed to ZZK Records, personifies the very best of this musical globalism.
Montoya, who grew up in Colombia and now resides in Italy, entered music as a classically trained violinist. He’s keen to stress his gratitude for this adolescent education, not only in how it exposed revealed whole new worlds of music, but permitted him travel places and sample different cultures from a young age, including playing at such renowned orchestra theaters as Gran Teatro de La Habana in Cuba and the Musikverein in Vienna. This classical upbringing naturally informed his inclusive, and methodically exacting, attitude to songwriting and production.
He eventually joined Fabrica, a “cultural subversion center” based in Treviso, Italy, which he explains as providing the creative framework for him to experiment with art, photography, film and design; evidently apprising the cinematic qualities of his music.
The pan-international musicality of his Montoya project is rooted in the musical diaspora of his native Colombia. This diaspora is vast; indigenous folk music hailing from Amazonian and Andean tribes; the cosmopolitan synthesis of modern reggaeton and traditional salsa taking place in Bogota and Medellin, and the Afro-Caribbean stylings of Cumbia and Champeta. Fusing the multi-layered precision of his classical education, his innate curiosity for Latin and “world” music, and affection for melodic electronica; his discography is at once ambitious and comfortingly familiar, as desirous of a catchy harmony as conceptual melding of Latin folk and modern electronics.
He himself described his attitude to songwriting as indebted to his love of cooking: “I love how certain chefs make combinations that make you think ‘are you crazy?’, I like to imagine myself as a chef who chooses his ingredients - in my case, indigenous voices, techno, and IDM - and try to combine them, creating a process that allows me to arrive at the final result represented by what comes out of this.”
So far, under the moniker Montoya, he’s produced the stirring 2015 album Iwa and 2016 Ep Lux, where you can detect him refining his cooking skills of the indigenous and the electronic. He’s also remixed the gifted Ecuadorian Nicola Cruz’s pleasantly plodding “Cumbia del Olvido”, adding another layer of melody with a soothing string arrangement. Moreover he’s played Sonar Bogota and Musicbox Lisbon, and various European venues, but his latest album Otun looks set to both break him properly on the continent, and produce his best work so far; a fiery and flavourful gourmet dish, with British expat producer Richard Blair providing refinement as a proverbial sous chef.
On Otun, the breadth of Montoya’s influences and tastes is at its most striking; the dulcet techno hum of “La Pastora” is perforated by sprightly flutes and percussion, while lead single “Solo Quiero” deploys a languid reggaeton pattern beneath Bogota rising star Pedrina’s distorted, wilting croon anticipating a euphoric synthesiser-lead climax. The title track, featuring a sultry guest vocal from Nidia Gongora, is a fierce and vigorous club anthem, amplified by hissing synth pads and sordid breakbeats. Even a more straightforwardly techno track like “Tatacoa” is stylized with intoxicating Indian vocal samples, and more traditional folk selections like “Orun” still use an inobtrusive bassline drone. Montoya’s palette is simultaneously expansive and curious, yet coherent, with a steadily melodic electronic through-line running through Otun’s duration.
Montoya absolutely sustains ZZK’s pedigree of platforming the most exciting and inventive electronic artists from Latin America, joining the storied legacy already built by the likes of Nicola Cruz, Chancha Via Circuito, and King Coya. Whether it’s through the intricate patterns of his synthesisers or the analogue beauty of his violin, what unifies his instrumentation is the candid expression of Montoya’s experiences, ideas and dreams: “I want to feed me of all these emotions, composing and putting into music all that I’ve lived.”