Post-Punk in 1980’s Peru:
An Obscure Passion
By Freddy Alva
The trajectory of England’s late ’70s/early ’80s post-punk sounds cut a wide swath of influence worldwide, making an unlikely and influential stop in Lima, Peru. Imported LPs by Joy Division, The Cure, Siouxsie & The Banshees plus tons of other like-minded outfits were quickly dubbed and disseminated among music-obsessed teenagers in the capital of Lima. Something about the angular riffs, poetic lyrics and the overall bleak atmospheric ambiance in the post-punk sound struck a chord, in a way providing a cathartic response to the tense political/economic reality the country was undergoing, being in the midst of a terrorist insurgency, unhinged inflation and out of control drug trafficking. Lima’s seasonal changes also greatly affected the national character. For four months of the year, the city is clothed in a dull gray sky with intermittent showers, called the “Garua.” This natural phenomenon leads its inhabitants to slip into the clutches of seasonal depression, all fertile ground for a musical genre rooted in melancholia and existential subject matter.
It wasn’t until 1985 that the first post-punk bands formed and due to the lack of music producing resources in the country, a good amount of the original bands never managed to release proper full lengths, only for the most part, cassette demos. The parallel ‘Rock Subterraneo’ movement happening during those times in Lima, comprised of more straight forward punk/hardcore bands, criss-crossed and overlapped these post-punk groups. At one time or another, they shared concerts/equipment/band members in a tight incestuous scene that swore allegiance to different musical genres. The great common denominator being a stubborn refusal to remain apart from the mainstream, running counter to what the national rock scene was marketing as contemporary youth culture.
The following list of bands is not complete one, but it does showcase the more important ones, ranging from short-lived projects to long standing ones that managed to stay together and record bodies of work that rival anything the cold industrial post-punk epicenters of Manchester or Sheffield ever produced. Here’s to those musicians that persisted against all odds, following their dark muse, and creating enchanting sounds amidst this obscure passion.
The undisputed standard bearers of the Post-Punk/Dark Wave movement in Peru. They managed to stay together long enough to record and continue playing consistently since their formation in 1985. They almost came close to being signed to CBS/Columbia in 1987, but their material was deemed too “anti-commercial” by that record label. A famous incident at a concert, where they threw dead pigeons and the lead singer spat on the crowd while stomping an American flag, probably didn’t help matters. They continue to this day, having released several full lengths, laying down a rich body of work that encompasses Post-Punk/Dark Wave/Gothic/Synth Rock styling. This song is a favorite off their heavily Joy Division/Bauhaus influenced 2nd demo from 1988.
Arguably one of the first post-punk bands that formed in 1985, with members of local Punk bands Leuzemia and Flema. Their material ranged from dark slower dirges to up tempo catchy melodic numbers that made them a perfect fit for blending in with the more punk sounding bands in the Rock Subterraneo scene. Their 8 song demo from ’86 features them switching off between female/male vocals. Unfortunately, they were a short lived band whose members went on to other local post-punk bands like Sin Kura and the pop combo Col Corazon. Delirios Kronikos reunited for a series of shows in 2014. A demo/live LP is scheduled to be released by RockSvb records in 2016. firstname.lastname@example.org
These guys started out in 1984 as a full on Punk band, broke up and restarted up again in 1987 with a new gothic influenced post-punk sound, white face make-up and all. Taking aesthetic and musical clues from bands like the Sisters Of Mercy/The Mission UK/This Mortal Coil et al., they strove to recreate London’s original “Batcave” gothic scene both visually and musically. They reunited in 2009 and continued playing up to their big farewell show in 2013. The following song, off their 1987 release, is an anthem of the Goth contingent in Lima.
Formed in 1985 by Fernando “Cachorro” Vial, the guitarist of Subterranean Rock heroes Narcosis, Fernando is one of the prime movers in this scene, doing a Post-Punk fanzine called “Pasajeros Del Horror” with Jaime Higa as well as starting two more electronic post-punk projects called Pompeya and Paisajes Electronicos. Los Feudales recorded a demo in 1986 that’s heavily influenced by Siouxsie/The Cure as well as bands from Spain like Decima Victima and Paralisis Permanente. This YouTube link down below lists the demo incorrectly as from 1992, it’s actually the full nine song demo from 1986.
An evenly split between the sexes outfit that formed in 1986, playing previously in Punk bands Excomulgados and Eutanasia. They recorded a four-song demo and disbanded by 1987. Their literary lyrics quoted existential French poets such as Antoine Artaud as well as native Peruvian writers, all the while sounding like if the Au Pairs or The Raincoats came from Lima and sang in Spanish. Bassist/Singer Tamira Bassallo and Guitarist Jaime De Lama would go on to start the more melodic pop band Col Corazon in 1989. Buh Records will be releasing the Salon Dada/Corazon Col material in March of 2016.
Formed by one of the ex-singers of pioneer post-punk band DELIRIOS KRONIKOS in 1987. They lasted for a couple of years before breaking up in 1989. No demos exist from that period except for some choice live videos like this one from ’87, showcasing their heavy Cure/New Order sound. They recently did a reunion show in 2013 in Lima, after not playing for 24 years. Check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FansDeSinKura
Starting out as a post-punk band in 1987, heavily influenced by Joy Division and New Order, they recorded two demos in the late 1980’s then would go on to radically alter their sound during the 1990’s. Incorporating elements of pop, grunge and commercial rock, even employing a DJ for a trip-hop/electronic period. They’ve managed to put out four albums since then, charting their musical evolution, but it is these 2 demos: “Tormenta Silenciosa (1988)” and “Rompiendo El Silencio (1989)” that earns them a place in the Peruvian post-punk pantheon.
The first band in Peru to employ the more extreme electronic industrial influence of bands like Einsturzeden Neubaten, Throbbing Gristle and Controlled Bleeding. Their live shows combined a slide show of bleak modern day images and apocalyptic sounds, reporting on the automated and dehumanized existence of daily life in Lima. Lasting only between 1987-1988, some of the members would go on to start in 1989, the experimental Techno dance outfit T De Cobre.
A short-lived band that formed part of the Visual and Theatrical movement know as Level 14. This art collective did fanzines, wrote anarchist graffiti and supported alternative bands in a non-commercial fashion. The following song is from their only demo from 1988 that was later reissued on CD. They recently reunited for a number of concerts in 2013.
Great band that went for a more atmospheric The Sound/Comsat Angels influenced sound. They existed between 1987-1989, with their original singer going on to form the Alternative Rock band Dolores Delirio in the 1990s. Dolores Delirio flirted with Post-Punk rhythms on their debut release before going into more of a Grunge/Commercial direction. This song is off Sor Obscena’s one and only demo from 1989.
Honorable Mention: NARCOSIS “Danza De Los Cristales”
Narcosis is known as one of the most influential Hardcore/Punk bands from Peru and South America. Their 1985 demo is a benchmark of the scene in its formative stages. Amidst the bile and fury of the 13 songs included on said demo, they found the time to do this more atmospheric gloomier tune that served as an inspiration for the post-punk bands to come. It’s no wonder that the author of this tune, guitarist Fernando Vial, would start the post-punk outfits Los Feudales/Pompeya/Pasajes Electronicos as Narcosis broke up in late 1985.
Thank you so much to Sandro from Rock Svb Discos and Cachorro for all the info, here’s a link to a cool blog that has most of the above mentioned bands recordings for download:
Great resource for Peruvian Post-Punk and Rock:
Freddy Alva is a NYC based writer of Peruvian descent. His writing has appeared in Noisey/Vice, No Echo, Cvlt Nation, In Effect Webzine and various print publications.
Follow Freddy Alva on Twitter at @FreddyAlva_nyc