Audio Atlas is our new weekly/fortnightly/monthly/however often-ly series exploring different music from around the world.


This first edition takes us the bustling nation of Mexico, where there's a mixture of sweltering tropics, dusty deserts and metropolitan havens. The region is extremely diverse, with tourist-trap beaches on one side and vicious drug-running cartels on another. The music of Mexico is often parodied into chunky moustachioed Mariachi groups in sombreros, but the area is home to a range of emotive folk subgenres. Corrido music, for example, weaves epic poetical sagas of things like the demonic chupacabra and migrant labour, implementing classical Western elements and waltz-like rhythms – 'La Cucaracha' is a notable track. Furthermore, the recent popular sub-subgenre of narcocorridos has erupted in Mexico, focused on specifically telling the stories of drug barons and violence through a style of sound that's being referred to as the 'Latin Gangster Rap', either in defiance or tribute. It's a deadly, provocative form of Mexican music, and artists being killed for merely performing it is not unheard of.

In terms of popular modern music, The Plastics Revolution are a big deal in Mexico. They're an electro-indie outfit, sculpting pep-laced jangle-pop with cheeky synths, and utilising disguises in their famed live shows; they're catchy and effortlessly fun. Lead singer Julio Gudiño also makes noises under his I Can Chase Dragons! moniker, releasing tracks like 'Republique' that have soaring axe samples and skittering drum beats glimmering amongst the echoes of his voice. In fact, the electronic music scene is blowing up in a massive way in Mexico, with acts like Wakal who uses sampled sounds of the street in his drum'n'bass, Tijuana minimalist Murcof and techno collective Kinky all broaching the topic of electronica.

Guitar music has always been a staple there with 70s guitar legend Carlos Santana and duelling acoustic virtuosos Rodrigo Y Gabriela hailing from the country, using smoky, exotic guitar riffs to craft distinctly Latin sounding rock music with a mystical edge. Nowadays, there's also a vibrant heavy metal scene (envied by European counterparts), and a burgeoning wave of indie creeping into the forefront. Lo-fi college rockers Chikita Violenta, with comparisons to Pavement, Sonic Youth and Broken Social Scene, have been making gritty guitar-pop for years, their third record TRE3S receiving dollops of praise for its ambitious nature. The Seamus, are an experimental indie group from Guadalajara, drawing influences from Radiohead and Beck to make spindly stabs of atmospheric rock laden with tension. Originally an all-girl garage-punk band Le Butcherettes built a reputation for weird live shows that featured a severed pig's head. Recently, they've levelled out a bit, recruiting Omar Rodriguez-Lopez to play bass on their first LP and a second record due out later this year.

The music of Mexico is widely varied, with scores of traditional folk bands and many contemporary guitar-based groups. Though there's a lot of rapid strumming, different genres are sliding into the fray, with electronica taking off majorly over the past few years. The turbulence, due to gang violence and corruption, means that Mexico has a rich vein of inspiration to mine from, and the music that's created as a result can be used as a coping mechnism – either to highlight the problems or as a way to numb their anguish. There's an abundance of vivacious groups there, developing sounds with a deep-rooted Latin feel and the influences of traditional Mexican folk, just waiting to be discovered.