Ana Belén García-Higgins and Cesar Robles Santacruz of Conjunto Primitivo
Credit: courtesy the artist

In March 2020, when I wrote about underground industrial label Chicago Research and the tight-knit community that surrounded it, I heard that local duo Conjunto Primitivo planned to release their debut full-length through the label. Considering how that month ended, I’m not surprised to see that album coming out only now—and I can’t argue with what Ana Belén García-Higgins and Cesar Robles Santacruz came up with. On the new Morir y Renacer, the duo superimpose the inextinguishable syncopated stomp of reggaeton onto foreboding industrial synths. That combo of genres is peanut-butter-and-banana-level ingenious, and I wish more musicians were exploring it—though I’m not sure how many could build an atmosphere and an identity as successfully as Conjunto Primitivo. García-Higgins sings in Spanish, delivering cryptic lyrics about heartache, misery, and the netherworld in a cool, borderline aloof style that sometimes feels like a chant. Her vocals intensify the thrilling sense of dread that courses through the band’s darker melodies, so that it’s hard to tell if they’re cheering on the end of the world or offering a balm for our interesting times. When I listen to the dramatic “Vagando,” which combines tense, groaning synths and minimal percussion that slices the air like a creaky floorboard in a haunted house, I don’t especially want to decide—I’m fine reveling in whatever I can cling to in the moment. Morir y Renacer is the final album from Chicago Research, but the community that grew up around the label will surely build new paths into whatever we’ve got left of a future.

Conjunto Primitivo Jenniferfauxxpez, Don Crescendo, and Otra Dek open. Fri 8/12, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, $10, 21+