Multimedia art was front and center for Delia, but she was slowly developing her skills as an electronic music producer. Inspired by early electronic music composers like Delia Derbyshire and the blunt experimentation of Tricky’s ‘Maxinquaye’, she wrote unstructured computer music in the quiet hours. “At first, I was very shy about it,” she says. Everything started to change when Delia followed her best friend to Buenos Aires after graduating.
In Argentina, she became involved with FM La Tribu, an experimental left-wing radio station and cultural collective operating in a large shared house. There she took part in circuit bending workshops, delved into South American electronic music traditions, and began thinking about building custom instruments. “It was the time of my life,” she enthuses. “We were digging through trash cans for food and going to shows every night.”
Read next: Radio Alhara: the online radio that connects the Arab world
In Buenos Aires, she reconnected with a friend she had made in Chiapas through La Otra Campaña (The Other Campaign), a political program organized by the Zapatistas advocating the recognition and protection of human rights and indigenous autonomy in Mexico. He introduced her to a group of hard-left Mexican expatriates. “We had meetings and talked about our ideas,” she recalls.
After eight months, Delia crossed the border to Santiago, Chile. She joined a socialist experiment where digital artists built a virtual community on the online media platform second life. Inside the matrix, she met Hector Llanquín, the Chilean multimedia artist and musician who became her collaborator in the industrial duo EBM HDXD.
Delia and Hector moved to Monterrey, Mexico, where they became familiar with the experimental music scene. In 2013 they released the EP ‘DEMOTICON’ through MALIGNA, a cassette label from Mexico. “MALIGNA grew out of a blog called Negative Youth, which was the cultural vanguard of the country,” Delia explains. “They were putting on witch house shows, and they put us on stage as well. For HDXD, she gave herself a rule: no computers. It was a purely material exercise.
In Monterrey, Hector began making artwork for the then fledgling Mexican club music collective NAAFI Delia and Hector operated outside of a nightclub context, but as they watched NAAFI find a line of demarcation between regggaeton, dembow, tribal guarachero, kuduro, industrial and deconstructed club, his position has changed. “I realized what they were doing was quite innovative,” she says. It was a bond that later turned out to be happy for her.
Read next: NAAFI: Bass without borders
However, over time, Delia began to understand why her family initially left Mexico. “I felt really precarious economically,” she admits. “It was as if I had no other vocation or possibility apart from working in culture.” Her brother was in New York. In 2015, she followed him there.
Between her experiences in the United States, Mexico and South America, Delia came to a moment of clarity in New York. “I realized that culture and music are the prerequisite for politics,” she explains. If she couldn’t change the politics, maybe she could create some music that would help shape a different set of prerequisites. Amid a period of personal upheaval, she learned to DJ and, for the first time in her life, fully embraced music as her path.
“I think it took my life to crumble to create the momentum that catapulted me into radical commitment,” she admits. Quickly, DJing began informing her musical productions, which she would share with NAAFI “I don’t think I fully understood music before I started DJing,” she says. “In the past, I had been radical in not wanting to use the structure, but I thought to myself, why not become radical within the structure.”
NAAFI was impressed and she started performing with them at shows. “Tayhana and Lao [from N.A.A.F.I], your jaw drops when you see them play, because they’re so bold, you know? Delia continues. “They made me want to get really technical, but when I think about it, what DJing really taught me is that music is mood.” Within two years, she found herself on the summer lineup of the acclaimed Summer Warm Up series at MoMA PS1 in Queens, where I saw her hit the dance floor in September 2017.
Read next: More 4×4: How Southern Sounds Halted Stagnating Club Culture
Five months later, NAAFI released their first album, “Animus”. It was an endless loop wrapped around two poles: the experimental, ambient noise she had been exploring since her days in Providence and her DJ sets, stripped down mutant club music with a dembow cadence. The title comes from the book Women who run with the wolves by psychoanalyst Clarissa Pinkola Estés. Clarissa explored Carl Jung’s concept of the animus as the inner male part of the female personality, providing Delia with a setting to contrast the mood with the club music. “I think it put me on the map musically,” she mused. “The reception around this album was epic. I ran away. Right after the release of Animus, I was complete, I lived fully from the music.”