The Electronic Legacy Gustavo Cerati Left Us

The legendary Argentinian musician was one of the pioneers of South American electronic music.
August 26, 2017, 2:13pm
Image via Colores Santos

This article originally appeared on Noisey Colombia. To think about Gustavo Cerati is to evoke the ultimate image of the rock star with respect to Spanish-language music: A tall guy in a leather jacket, tight pants, and dark sunglasses, bearing a loud guitar in his hands. That guitar emitted authentic anthems that made his name legendary throughout South America. Through his songs, Cerati knew how to shock the world, inspire generations, and leave an indelible footprint on pop culture. He took us for a ride around the universe. Cerati's contribution to the Latin American electronic music scene, however, was overwhelming. Over the course of his career, he nurtured an almost obsessive interest about the music that could be produced with computers, and from the mid-80s on, he deviated from the more classical format of drum, guitar, and bass that he used in his debut album with Soda Stereo, introducing electronic sounds in his compositions, influenced by the British New Wave of the time.


Initial proof of this was Nada Personal (Nothing Personal) (1985), Soda Stereo's second LP, in which synthesizers—very popular in pop music during that decade—were heard for the first time in Cerati's work. It was the perfect addition at a time when the world wanted to dance under a disco ball.

Signos (Signs)

arrived a year later, in 1986. Those were the days of mascara, wild hair, and that semi-Gothic danceable, alternative vibe, that turned Soda Stereo into a massive sensation in Latin America. "Profugos," the third track on the disc, and one of their most popular songs, featured synthesizers prominenty intro. Even at a few seconds ong, it sounded like a three-day dance party.

In 1987 came Soda Stereo's first live album, Ruido Blanco (White Noise), a work that included songs from its first three albums and was recorded during the Signos tour in Argentina, Chile, Peru, Mexico, and Venezuela. These songs were saturated with electronic drums and synths, and sequences of songs like "Sobredosis de TV" ("TV Overdose"), "Final caja negra" ("Black Box Final"), and "Persiana Americana." It was clear that Cerati had mad an effort to bring the same electronic sounds he'd worked with in the studio to his live shows.

1992 marked a definite before and after with respect to the definitive appropriation of computer-generated sounds in Cerati's work. In March, he released Colores Santos (Saintly Colors), an album that has become a cult classic over the years, and which Gustavo made with his lifelong friend, Daniel Melero. The psychedelic and dream pop presence are notable in the work thanks to the use of samples like MPC 60 and Emax II, loops, and effects applied to guitars and voices.

In October, back with Soda Stereo, Dynamo appeared, an album that was ahead of its time, traveling between shoegaze, dream pop, psychedelia, and rock. It was a fast-paced album that was heavy with samples that were sound portals to songs like "Sweet Sahumerio" and "Claroscuro" ("Chiaroscuro").

Amor Amarillo (Yellow Love), came out in 1993, Cerati's first solo work. In it, he used an Akai MPC60, an electronic instrument which was used a lot by hip hop artists at the beginning of the 90s to add percussion to their songs. "Pulsar," a song full of digital percussion, ambient key strokes, and a hypnotizing guitar, was on this disc.

A couple years later, Cerati's Soda Stereo phase ended with Sueño Stereo (Stereo Dream), their seventh and final album. It was pure experimentation, made with sequences that, at the time, could have sounded strange for the band's biggest fans, thanks to "Crema de estrellas" ("Star Cream"), "Planta" ("Plant"), "X-Playó" and "Moirè", the four dream-like tracks that were pure electronica, closing out the era with Soda Stereo.

Later, in 1996, with the announcement of the definitive dissolution of Soda Stereo, Cerati teamed up with Chilean musicians Andrés Bucci, Christian Powditch, and Guillermo Bassardo on a short ambient techno project baptized as Plan V. It didn't have a lot of commercial success (although it also wasn't their intention for it to be commercially successful), but it left us with songs like "Teletrack" and another album released in 1998 along with the British project, The Black Dog.

This was followed by Gustavo's second solo project, Bocanada (1999), a fundamental work in his discography in which electronic atmospheres, the influence of music with South American roots, and a slow, pronounced psychedelia were privileged. Cerati conceived of it as a single piece that should be listened to from beginning to end, as one of his master works.

The beginning of the new millennium was accompanied by the appearance of Ocio, another laptop band that Cerati pulled together with the Argentine composer Flavio Etcheto, and in which the ambient and techno of these two visionaries of spatial music stand out. The only product to come of this project was Medida Universal (Universal Measurement) (1999), an album that had a limited release but which, thanks to the Internet, we have the pleasure of being able to hear in its entirety.

Siempre es hoy (It's Always Today) (2003) was his third solo album, a work that emanates happiness and that transmits a special freshness. It's filled with songs like "Cosas imposibles", "Karaoke", and "Tu cicatrize en mi," which use electronic percussion and spatial synths. A year later, he released an album of covers with other artists like Gustavo Lamas, Kinky, Miranda, Leo García, and Leandro Fresco.

Among his projects there's also Roken, a power laptop trio composed of Cerati, Flavio Etcheto and Leandro Fresco, an old acquaintance from his Soda Stereo days. It appeared in 2003 during the Siempre es Hoy tour. Roken was a project made for the club, with the primary goal of creating pieces that would induce dance through real-time composition. On the internet, you can find one of the few live performances that he gave in the now-defunct bar, Gótica, in Bogotá in 2004.

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