Last December, seated in e-flux’s performance space in Brooklyn, I witnessed their capacity to transfer divine energy from DJ to spectator for the first time. The room glowed, a neon violet light hovering around them like the rings of an aura photograph. In front of them was a pair of CDJs, which they used to stitch machinelike hums and throbbing four-on-the-floor rhythms into a nebulous cloud of Black techno. Under the beat, they sampled a sound bite of an interview with their mother. She spoke fondly about traveling across the Mona Passage (the strait that separates Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic), the infinite ocean waters stretching before her. At one point, Hilario-Reyes paused the music and read from a copy of The Collected Poems of Édouard Glissant. Their voice was soft but unwavering, the room’s quiet static filling the gaps between their words.
“In the infinity of sand its rout, in the valley of night its rout and yet
upon the salt,
there are only calyxes
Encompassing the stem posts of these seas
where delight is infinite to me.
And what to say of the Ocean, except that it waits?”
I felt the reverent flows of Glissant’s verse and the pulses of techno coalesce in my body, emanating back out into the room. At that moment, the spiritual potency of electronic music came to life.
When the Puerto Rican–born artist of Dominican descent releases these beatific sounds into the world, they perform as Morenxxx. The stage name is a nonbinary adaptation of moreno/a, a term loaded with disparate perceptions of Blackness across Latin America. Depending on your geographical location, it could refer to someone who is light brown, a dark-skinned Indigenous person, or even an Black American. The moniker captures so much of the porosity and untranslatability of Hilario-Reyes’s art—its engagement with Caribbean displacement and belonging, as well as its allegiance to queer club culture. “By adding the additional Xs at the end, there’s something very techno about it,” they explain. “It was cumulative of my background, upbringing, or Americanization in relation to how I’m viewed in certain spaces. . . . This is a term that is affirming Blackness, rather than a lot of the language that is more derogatory towards Blackness in Latin America.”