Daydreaming with Dinamarca
Cristian Dinamarca makes music for the end of the party, or more specifically, that moment shortly before sunrise when the perreo intenso gives way to swaying under purple-hued light. “I love that you could see that the light has to be purple,” he says with a chuckle. “A lot of my music is for that hour of the party: it’s either really late or really early.”
For a DJ and producer that commands rooms with a radiant confidence, Dinamarca — who performs and produces under his surname — is endearingly humble and reserved over Zoom. He peppers his sentences with quiet giggles, the quick patter of his Chilean accent revealing itself more and more as we speak. In the background of our call, streaks of sunshine pour into a white room that is completely empty save for a mattress with a colourful Mexican blanket strewn across it. Dinamarca is in Madrid, the city he now calls home after a recent move from his longtime base of Stockholm.
The Chilean-Swedish producer is gearing up to release his latest album, Soñao, via Staycore, the electronic music collective and label he co-founded alongside fellow Stockholm-based DJ Ghazal. Dinamarca describes the project as “good to have on a loop”, a characteristic that’s something of a hallmark of his meditative, dembow-injected sound. Soñao (“dreamed” in Spanish) is Dinamarca’s sixth volume of music, a crisp ten-track record that finds the overlap between moody, danceable, distorted and incredibly sensual beats. It’s an album on which rumbling, fragmented drum’n’bass tracks segue into ethereal perreo and samba-inspired rhythms without ever breaking the hypnotic spell.
“I can see the dreaminess of it,” Dinamarca says of Soñao’s aesthetic world. “But it’s a bit more club. I feel like I started off putting out music that was really clubby, then I chilled out, and now I’m finding my way back. It’s a chill club; it works when I’m DJing, but I [often] wonder if others feel it’s clubby, too.”
All of the “chill club” references aside, he’s not exactly making music to nap to. Soñao evokes a hazy energy, but it never fails to pick up again at exactly the right points, as uptempo tracks like the hyperpop-laced Hypna and lively trance interlude Marjorie bookend softer moments like Brasa, an elegant wisp of a melody that invokes traditional Andean music. Panana is a stoned odyssey built around minimalistic claps and atmospheric synths, but when the dembow rattle gently breaks through, you can only imagine grinding to it in a sweaty basement somewhere. Where previous projects like Fantasilandia and Fantasilandia, Vol 2 and 2020’s Is It Real (with Spanish-American artist La Favi) relish in the same sense of understated sensuality and meticulous production, Soñao, instead, finds its magic in the liminal space between the organic and synthetic. By grounding the record with more analogue sounds – flamenco claps; warm, reverb-laced piano chords – Dinamarca unlocked a new level of vulnerability within himself.
While building the sonic universe of Soñao, Dinamarca was constantly creating, painstakingly constructing two or three songs a day on Ableton. “Sometimes, [writing] feels like keeping a diary,” he says, looking down bashfully. “I wake up and I just have to make something. It’s either [based on] something that happened yesterday, or what I’m thinking of today, and then I begin to categorise [those thoughts]. It’s all based on feeling.”
But as Soñao’s diaristic threads began to unfurl, Dinamarca turned his gaze outward, craving connection with others. No stranger to collaborations – and Dinamarca can count a wide range of them, from neoperreo faves like La Favi and Ms Nina to Eartheater and Coucou Chloe – on Soñao he brings Ángel Ballesteros of Mexican experimental trio Meth Math (who lends vocals to the languid perreo of Delixoxo), Spanish musician Amore (who sings on smouldering, slow-whining love song Favorita) and Spanish pop experimentalist Ralphie Choo along for the ride. Ballesteros’ feature was born from sessions on Meth Math’s latest EP, mⅤrtal, on which Dinamarca produced the seductive club track Beso con Baba (which translates to ‘kiss with spit’). “I sent them a bunch of beats and Angel just sent me the vocals really quick; she’s super talented!” Dinamarca gushes.
With Ralphie and Amore also both based in Madrid, Dinamarca reached out to them directly via Instagram, asking if they would come hang out at the studio and simply see what happened. “The idea for the song was to mix both of our creative universes,” Choo reveals to me over email, speaking of the mesmerising Fubu, the downtempo album opener to which he lends his raspy vocals. “As curators and producers, we decided to move the song toward a type of deconstructed funk carioca.”
“I started off putting out music that was really clubby, and then chilled out, and now I’m finding my way back. It’s a chill club”
Dinamarca’s ability to subtly flit between genres, styles and traditions is a skill he’s been refining since he was 19, when he started DJing in Stockholm’s vibrant club scene. Raised on reggaeton, he began to experiment with mixing dembow riddims with the Eurodance and trance that was playing all around him. Effectively, the Sudaca in him beat out the Scandinavian (or at least grinded up against it), and Dinamarca began making music that focused on what he deemed the most important part of the dancer’s body: the waist.
“When I first incorporated reggaeton into my music, I wanted to make club music, but I was training myself and seeing who I was…” he remembers. “I’m Chilean, born there, but raised in Sweden. Up until I was 13, I had only heard reggaeton. Then I discovered trance – old Tïesto and beautiful, ten-minute songs with a build-up and minimised chords. I would study it in my headphones. When I started making music at 25, I liked trance melodies but not the drums; they make you dance with only the upper part of the body. I wanted to [create music that] I wanted to dance to.”
This desire to move his own body, rather than just setting the stage for others to do so, is an undeniable trademark of his performances. During his live sets – which can span Swedish trance giants Antiloop and Bizcochito to Amaarae and Kelman Duran – it’s not uncommon for Dinamarca to step back from the decks, close his eyes as he sways his hips, and just surrender to the tunes. “I really like to dance!” he says, growing visibly excited. “When I’m out, the most fun I can have is dancing – it’s not at the bar. Every time I go out and a bad song is playing, I have a bad time, but if it’s a good song, everything is nice.”
“Writing feels like keeping a diary. It’s all based on feeling”
As our conversation starts to wind down, Dinamarca shyly mumbles that he hopes I got good enough answers because he’s bad at talking about his music. I disagree with him: Dinamarca comes off monastic and meditative, but, like his music, he’s also incredibly warm and uplifting – a refreshingly chill contrast to the often chaotic and larger-than-life personalities of the dembow and reggaeton space. Instead, he’s concocting a pastel-coloured vision of Latin club music, happy to exist as both the curator of the vibe and just another meandering soul gyrating on the dancefloor.
“I really like to dream away,” he concludes, his voice faint and peaceful as if he’s floating away. “I like to get high without getting high. I want to reach a point where you can be on a super crowded dancefloor, but you don’t notice because you’re in your head, so into the music, that even if someone is looking at you, it doesn’t even matter.”
Soñao is out on 12 April via Staycore