There was a time when Sofia Kourtesis was content to simply make party music. On her first two EPs, the Berlin-based Peruvian house producer crafted shimmering tracks that could soundtrack the most humid of summer afternoons. She shifted gears, though, on her 2021 breakthrough, Fresia Magdalena (Technicolour), whose five tracks moved away from pure hedonism toward a thoughtful, vulnerable approach that helped Kourtesis grapple with difficult life circumstances. She also included her vocals for the first time, which gives the record a more insular feeling than her previous work. On “La Perla,” a song she made while her father was dying of leukemia, she plaintively reflects on that unfolding tragedy as manipulated vocal loops and a scurrying beat create a wistful pool of sound. “Nicolas” is named for her father, who taught her how to play piano, and the way she weaves his voice into a disco edit full of other sampled vocals feels like a loving tribute to the man who nurtured her early musical development. Despite the seriousness of its subject matter, Fresia Magdalena is also club friendly. “By Your Side” is all glistening bells and synth flourishes, and a swerving bass line buoys the track as horns elevate it into celebratory catharsis. Kourtesis keeps things even-keeled, however, and she seems to be trying to stay as grounded as her low-key house music: “I’m trying to be in a world of dreams but also reality,” she recently told Mixmag. Kourtesis has also grown more mindful of her role as an artist, and of the ways she can use her platform to bring awareness to social issues. You can hear that on her latest single, “Estación Esperanza” (Ninja Tune), which she created around samples from “Me Gustas Tu” by singer-songwriter Manu Chao. The track features chants she recorded at three protests in Lima over the past year—Indigenous people pushing back against mining and oil drilling in their territories, women demanding change in light of the country’s high femicide rate, and fearless youth rejecting political corruption following the ouster of now ex-President Martín Vizcarra in November 2020. You can hear Kourtesis’s voice in the mix too; more than ever, she wants to be a part of the change.
Sofia Kourtesis Cinthie headlines; Sofia Kourtesis and Vitigrrl open. Fri 9/2, 10 PM, Smart Bar, 3730 N. Clark, $25, $20 in advance, 21+