A slight air of secrecy surrounds the online presence of 49 hrtz (aka Benjamin Molina), though he’s well-known in Santiago, Chile’s underground electronic music community. With releases on the local dance labels Panal and Diamante, Molina crafts distinctively grainy tracks that are warmly reminiscent of both classic Chicago house and Detroit techno. His records, however, veer away from the typically dialed-in sonics of throwback tunes, and are instead glazed with a hazy, opaque ambience that’s more timeless than dated.
Molina also curates a bi-weekly mix series called botanik dreams along with Johano, a fellow producer and DJ heavily involved in Chile’s intimate underground scene. The podcast features DJs and producers from various places around the globe, Naples, Brooklyn, Buenos Aires, and Prague, to name a few.
In addition to contributing the first in the Discobres Mix series, 49 hrtz spoke with us about his influences, production style, and the changing nature of the dance music scene in Santiago:
You’re influenced by sounds from Detroit and Chicago. Are there any similarities between those places and Santiago?
I think Santiago has a certain street vibe, it’s very urban. I think it could be connected to Chicago and Detroit in that way. There are some musical similarities, but I think it’s more about the cities. The feeling here is a bit calmer, though there are influences that come from local tastes and current issues.
When did you start producing?
I started DJing in 2010, and first started producing in 2012. They were s**t productions. [Laughs]
Yeah, all of our first productions are s**t. Were you always working towards the same style?
I’ve always have a certain kind of connection with “space” music, and a connection with house. I always direct the productions to a certain atmosphere, and the music is always traveling somewhere. It’s about going on a journey, but still with roots in classic music.
You employ lots of textural sounds, specifically white noise and distortion.
I think the textures you hear are related to a certain type of feeling, a certain emotion. It also brings context to the work. I think really clean sounding productions can lack their own style, so I try to bring a unique emotion to the records in that way.
Do you feel like you’re part of a larger community of people with similar artistic goals?
I don’t like to put my music in a specific genre. I think there are a lot of influences and I try to group all of them. But I do feel connected to other guys as well, guys like Hakim Murphy.
For me, the 90s house movement is very important, as well as disco and funk music. Theo Parrish, Fred P, Legowelt, Tim Hecker, and Larry Heard have all influenced me directly, to name a few.
And the 90s were a transitional period throughout the world, especially in Chile. Is there any Chilean music that was particularly meaningful to you growing up?
In the states, the endgame of many artists is a particular brand of success. Do you see a similar ambition here?
I think Chile tries to emulate the U.S. a lot, and it detracts from a defined cultural identity of our own. There were a lot of records that were made in the 70s that weren’t released as a result of the military regime. And while they ended up being released from ’92 on, we lost a lot in those years.
But back in the 70s and 80s there were lots of records that had a distinct national identity. And the lyrics of those bands always had a feeling of rebellion and opposition.
It’s changed a lot with a new generation of young people working with new processes. There are a lot more artists now than there were ten years ago. There are lots of new artists developing new work, lots of parties, lots of people going out, so now there’s much more.
It seems tough to gain momentum though.
Yeah, it’s still to difficult to sell your art in Chile.
What’s been your experience DJing in Santiago?
Each time, the people are more impressed by the music, and people come expecting to dance. The turnout is steadily growing and I think there’s an increasing interest in the scene.