Issue #132 Mix: Black Techno | Queer Rave

Mix: Black Techno | Queer Rave

Jesús Hilario-Reyes aka MORENXXX

Jesús Hilario-Reyes, Untitled #05, 2022, still.

Issue #132
December 2022

Techno is and always has been a site for the experimental. There is a certain catharsis that comes with its inert funk and drive that exquisitely blends the machine with the corporeal. As a selector and a participant in rave and nightlife, the ways in which we can manipulate and bend time, or even make time, are quite clear to me. There’s something intertwined with how we perceive the passage of time, in relation to how quickly/slowly things are moving around and through us. I believe this is in part what Kodwo Eshun describes as “techno as an operating system for overriding the present.”1 Much of what makes up how we experience techno are the communities and spaces it inhabits, the legacy and stories it upholds. Given that many of my experiences have been in the company of groups like Rave Reparations, Dweller, Black Techno Matters, Futurehood, Seltzer, New World Disorder (the list goes on), the intersection of “Black techno” and “queer rave” has always been tenderly entangled. Reimagining these connections seems futile when my nightly excursions involve dancing with both entities.

This may seem novel, but I’m quite aware that this is not everyone’s reality (or even the majority), that much of what is celebrated and upheld in this genre does not align with Blackness, queerness, and transness. I do believe that in this “power of overriding the present” we find our ability to recontextualize music to our liking, to bend it, and make it CUNT! Far from designating any sort of self-identification with queerness, we have spaces that set the tone for this sort of play. A quality of queer rave spaces that feels quite emblematic to the scene here in New York is a fogged-out dance floor made to feel limitless; in these spaces that centralize techno, house, trance, and dance music at large we are not only able to be embodied through the music, but simultaneously disembodied. To tiptoe in disappearance, and kiss each “other.” Legacy Russell famously states in Glitch Feminism that “our blur is a dance-floor at 4 a.m., that moment where in the crush of all bodies lit up under strobes like firecrackers, we become nobody, and in the gorgeous crush of nobody we become everybody.”2 This practice of becoming and unbecoming is so intimately queer that these elements become unavoidable. That is to say that not all spaces foster this innately. To be clear, I am not stating that these entities are always harmonious. Oftentimes they rupture one another, are messy, and unresolved. In all honesty, I’m critical of sounding utopic or even romantic here; there is so much failure in the promise that these spaces and this music will provide us with a “saving grace.” I think it’s more truthful to identify Black techno and queer rave culture as gestural or incomplete; this is much more capacious, and is arguably its saving power. These notions are further contextualized in José Esteban Muñoz’s Cruising Utopia:

In my analysis that does not mean that queers become one nation under a groove once we hit the dance floor. I am in fact interested in the persistent variables of difference and inequity that follow us from queer communities to the dance floor, but I am nonetheless interested in the ways in which a certain queer communal logic overwhelms practices of individual identity. I am also interested in the way in which the state responds to the communal becoming.3

When organizing my mixes, I spend a lot of time developing a visual language to accompany my selections. Keeping in mind the visuality of these spaces, in the mix above I felt that it was important to include tracks that carry these theoretical/cultural components effortlessly. From sampling Jenn Nkiru’s short film Rebirth Is Necessary, to Fred Moten’s book Black and Blur, and my own and my contemporaries’ poetic interventions, this mix not only explores the ability to bend time, but also to recontextualize music. While staying committed to a climactic narrative, the mix elaborates on the fluidity between legacy, gender, and race. Throughout my practice as an artist as well as a DJ, I often think about remedy, and how the work I am a part of can be utilized in that sense. In Black to Techno, written and directed by Jenn Nkiru, Elijah Maja voices on Arthur Jafa’s theory of the dropout:

The dropout within techno and all other forms of Black musical composition speaks to the idea of the missing … On a deeper, deeper psychoanalytical level, what you’re essentially hearing is Black people creating a universe within which that rupture, that loss that we are missing is fixed. Forcing an awareness upon us of what has been removed then taken from us. The missing, that thing we’ll never find, never get back, never recover, it’s speaking to that. The dropout is essentially a pulling away, an acknowledgment of a presence, an energy that has been removed from itself.4

I argue that this gestural practice and intersection of Blackness, queerness, and transness works in tandem with what Eshun mentions: the conscientious notion of filling a rapture.

Ultimately, staying true to the elements that have established MORENXXX, I wanted to meddle in the harder side of techno (and trance), and centralize artists who are Black, queer, and/or trans—for example BEARCAT, TYGAPAW, Him Hun, Quest?nmarc, and DJ Hyperdrive—and blend them with legends like Robert Hood and Claude Young. All the while I’m incorporating tracks from WTCHCRFT, Xiorro, Estoc, and Ariel Zetina, who have been carrying on these legacies with enigmatic force.


Kodwo Eshun, More Brilliant Than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction (Quartet Books, 1998), 124.


Legacy Russell, Glitch Feminism (Verso, 2020), 116.


José Esteban Muñoz, Cruising Utopia (NYU Press, 2009), 66.


From Black to Techno, directed by Jenn Nkiru (2019).

Music, Gender
Queer Art & Theory, Blackness, Transgender
Return to Issue #132

Jesús Hilario-Reyes (aka MORENXXX) is an interdisciplinary artist currently based in New York. While situating their practice at the crossroads of sonic performance, land installation, and expanded cinema, their iterative works examine carnival and rave culture throughout the West, to take on a remedial approach to the effects of “destierro,” an untranslatable Spanish term that is most akin to being “torn from the land.” They’ve contextualized the term to traverse towards ideas of Black and queer fugitivy. Interwoven in the midst of these notions is a concern for the im/possibility of the Black body and the failure of mechanical optics. Hilario-Reyes has developed a tender entanglement with their practice as a DJ to stimulate and conflict their artistic endeavors. They are a recipient of the Drawing a Blank artist grant, the Leslie-Lohman Museum Artist Fellowship, the Lighthouse Works Fellowship, and the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts residency. Hilario-Reyes has shown work at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Black Star Film Festival, Mana Contemporary, Real Art Ways, Rudimento, Parasol Unit, and Gladstone Gallery.


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