When everything shut down in 2020, Colombian multidisciplinary artist Manchado was in the middle of creating PANORAMA, his magnum opus that he's finally released into the world after years of fervently working and reworking.
In the album, which he co-produced, Manchado leaves behind the bright and carefree pop textures he showcased on his debut, Pegasus, and slowly ventures into a new and more menacing sound — one that takes all his pre-pandemic influences and distorts them just up to the point of collapse, creating tension that never quite resolves.
He also slowly roasts them with a slew of Latin influences from early childhood that he had thrust to the side when he initially started music, first embracing them in his 2019 cover of Selena's classic “Como la Flor” and then fully exploring all the different realms and genres under the Latin umbrella in the singles leading up to PANORAMA.
Manchado called up PAPER to talk about all things PANORAMA, below.
PANORAMA combines many influences from the Latin world on the songwriting and many from hyperpop on the production, so whose influences are you drawing upon for both of those worlds?
For the hyperpop end of things, it kind of just happened. In one of the tracks that I feel is the most hyperpop, "Azucar" — which was co-produced by Shubu, who had worked on a bunch of Dorian Electra and Mood Killer stuff — I wasn’t really trying to reference that, but because I was working with him, everything just ended up happening that way. I think hyperpop’s still a very broad term, where you can take elements of pop music and really take them to the max. I do that in a lot of different areas. The way I try to experiment with the elements is incorporating parts of reggaeton or salsa.
For the Latin references, it varies. Within the album, I have such a wide spectrum of genres that I was working with. Sometimes I’d do some rock stuff. I take a lot of elements from things I grew up listening to in terms of Latin references or different parts of my life that I ignored because growing up, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Latin music. I was always a big fan of American music, and after living in the US I understood how that was all a colonist construct. Even here in Colombia in institutions and school, everything pushes you to believe that America is better, more tasteful, has more culture or more artful. So growing up, I fully fed into that, but when I was in New York, I was like, “This is colonialism," and I went back and revisited all this stuff I listened to in my surroundings as a kid, with my family or at parties.
When did you decide to make that transition back to the Latin world?
I had a whole album that I released and it was all in English. It was kind of hip-hop and a little hyperpop even before we had the word. Once Trump became president, it shifted the consciousness of everybody. When you’re in Colombia, you think, “I’m just a person,” but once you go into America, you become very self-aware about your ethnicity, your race. It’s something that I didn’t even think of growing up in Colombia at all. I didn’t think it was a big deal. There’s so many cultures here. After a while of being in New York, I realized how being Latin impacted a lot of people who perceived me.
This whole album was me learning a lot and experimenting. The reason I kept making it and trying different things was because it felt really exciting because Latin music is so rich and has so many rhythms — so many elements that you can work with. I feel like mainstream Latin pop, sometimes it can get very stale. One, it’s very straight and very male. Now there’s more experimentation happening with people like Bad Bunny, but I feel like it’s still very conservative. It’s always trying to stay in the same pocket, so I distort reggaeton to the end of the world or I put an interlude that has a phone call or I make salsa with a hyperpop drop. "What would happen if I do X, Y or Z?"
What was it like working on an album in the middle of a pandemic?
I wrote all the songs from 2019 up to early pandemic. Even before the pandemic, I had already written all of the songs or at least had a draft of many of them. A lot of what I’m talking about in there is my life pre-pandemic. The reason why it took me so long is because finishing music is so difficult. I went through a whole process where I was mixing it myself and that took me forever. Then I was like, “No, this is not that good.” Then I had a whole person mix it again and master it. That in and of itself took literally forever, almost two years.
Nowadays, writing an album as a smaller artist, it’s not that relevant. It’s hard enough to put out a song every couple of months and make a cool video and really explore every facet of the world in every song. So it was definitely difficult, especially in the middle of everything where you couldn’t go out. For example, here in Colombia, restrictions were so strict you couldn’t even go jogging. So by that time, I had already finished the album and I was trying to make the videos, so that pushed my timeline a lot, but it really gave me the time to perfect the sound and sit down with the songs and write them and re-write them and make sure every part I was making and every song was really good.
Also, I had just come back from New York to Colombia. I hadn’t lived here in so long. I feel like it really impacted the sound too, because it’s something I’m realizing now that Latin music is a very social thing. I’m referencing a lot of genres that are for the club or when you’re out at a party. I don’t feel like I fully understood the social nuances that come with every genre because I was pulling all from my memory rather than my immediate reality of, “This is what people are liking about this when we’re out.” That's what also made [PANORAMA] its own thing.
Visuals were super important to the singles you released leading up to PANORAMA, so what influences were you drawing upon there?
With every video I want to do, I’m like, “What is it that the song is about?” I always come back to that. I’m like, “What is it that the song is about and how can I express that?” And every video’s different. With "Mona Lisa," which is the latest one I put out, I was really interested with how the song itself has so many textures that are very distorted and metallic — very aggressive. I was like, “How do I translate that into a visual?” And then I took that and I was like, “What materials can I use within the stylings and set?” I was working with a friend who’s a really good designer. That’s how I came up with the whole idea for everything. It was more of a fashion film.
With the one before that, “Dicen,” I was trying to create a metaphor about what the song was about. Within the song, it had elements of talking about disco balls and partying but feeling reminiscent. So I was like, “What elements make me feel reminiscent?” So I was inspired by Las Dos Fridas.
But the video before that, “Volver a Enamorarme,” I was inspired by how relationships, especially queer relationships, sometimes can feel very transactional and disposable. I was inspired a little by this episode of Black Mirror where people are rating each other and have a score, but in the video, I was going out on dates with different robots. In general, every visual has a story and a meaning. I’m always trying to be like, “Okay, what am I trying to say and how can I turn it into a visual?”
If you had to choose just one song from PANORAMA, which one was your favorite?
I really love “Quemao" because I was able to experiment with Vallenato, which is a very typical Colombian rhythm. I tried so many versions of that song. The melody, the arrangement... it took so long, but I really love how it describes the anger and frustration that I felt and a lot of people feel of being burnt out — feeling like you’re in this wheel and working so hard and nothing’s coming out of it. That’s one of the songs people really like and resonate with.
I also really love “Amapola,” which is the last song on the album. For me, the whole album is me going through these different struggles that you go through as a person: Relationships with a friend or fake relationships or disposable love or addiction. I’m touching on all of these different things of being burnt out, being depressed. “Amapola” is like, “Look, I’ve been through everything. I’ve been through a lot, but I will remain. I will have a hopeful spirit. I will persevere. I know that whatever I’m going through, I’m just learning."
And what’s next for Manchado?
Right now, I have all these ideas that I’ve started and I’m really excited to just write a new thing. I don’t know if I will be doing another album. I feel like creating in that kind of way can take a lot of time.
I’ve been experimenting a lot with TikTok. After putting out “Mona Lisa,” I’ve had a lot of reaction towards that. I had this one video of me making a song out of a blender and it went viral. It’s weird. With TikTok, I can create stuff very immediately and get a very immediate response of how people are reacting to it. I’m interested in really leaning into that in the creative process — making a bunch of songs and showing the world even before I put them out and, according to that, finishing whatever people are resonating with.
Releasing music, especially independent, is such a long process and you don’t know how people are going to react. Sometimes you create this whole visual, this whole video and you spend all of this money. Looking back, for example with PANORAMA, I didn’t have to do a video for every song. I’m glad I did because it was a whole learning process, but it’s definitely not the most efficient way of putting out music because nowadays you just have to be constantly putting out music. I was resistant to that process, but I’m excited to be making stuff and seeing how it goes.
Photography: Nicolás Zambrano
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