Jonny From Space pushes a renewed sense of what Miami club music can be

‘back then I didn’t but now I do’ is the DJ and producer’s debut towards imagining nightlife with calming synths, quirky sound elements, and wistful, heady melodies.
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Dinorah Prevost
Dinorah Prevost is a Florida-based audio editor, producer and writer. She has recently decided to try a new, (mostly) independent path as a freelance writer and editor.

When you typically think about South Florida’s decades-old music scene, it’s not unusual to come up with Miami bass, rap, and EDM. Raunchy acts like 2 Live Crew and ever-popular events like Ultra Music Festival are part of the long, storied history of Miami’s reputation as a cultural behemoth and party city.

But simmering in the underground scene in recent years—and often away from the watch of many outsiders—is a collective of electronic music producers who are putting forth a renewed sense of what club music in Miami can be. Something beyond just the extremely high-energy music that often lives and dies by the well-known beat drop. Something that weaves together three elements: 1) lots of dub, bass, and percussion, 2) the complex DNA of the Latin music prevalent in South Florida, and 3) the house and techno music birthed in Chicago and Detroit.

Jonathan Trujillo, better known as Jonny From Space, is one of those producers. Since the late 2010s, Jonny has been a resident DJ at Club Space, a longtime nightlife institution in Downtown Miami since its opening in 2000. He has put out a series of seven diverse EPs and collaborated on a handful of projects with other emerging South Florida talents, such as Nick León and Coffintexts. “Miami is cool because it’s an incredibly unique place with so many different styles, cultures, and music all meshed together and that reflects in the music being produced,” Jonny said in an interview accompanying a mix for Origins Sounds. “It’s also so far from the rest of the country it’s almost its own thing.”

Listen through his discography so far and all that meshing is apparent. He’s created an experimental sound that is influenced by everything from bass and techno to downtempo and ambient music. In many instances, his music has the spirit of reggaeton, pounding dance music, and the introspective quietness of “chill out” music. He can make you feel like dancing big time (see: “Hurricane Party”) or like bobbing your head along to the beat, immersed in the ethereal musical landscape he’s constructed  (see: “deep breath”).

Earlier this year, after about a dozen short releases, he dropped his most ambitious effort yet: his debut album back then I didn’t but now I do. After releasing all of his previous projects on his own or through Miami labels Space Tapes and Omnidisc, he’s giving this album a different chance with a much wider audience by linking up with a non-Miami-based record label like Incienso. In many ways, their collaboration works well. Just as Jonny is integral to Miami’s emerging alternative to the traditional nightlife scene, Incienso thrives in New York City by reimagining the character of music for the club.

Back then starts with the ethereal “Crystal Eyes,” creating a delightfully dreamy beginning to an album that Jonny says is “built 2 chill.” Elements of dub are juxtaposed against a lazy, hypnotic beat. Then “Luna Dance” picks up the pace, pushing percussion to the front of the track. The punch of the drums is made for the dancefloor—if that space was decidedly laid back.

From there, we find Jonny moving between minimal, liquid tracks that seem to wander like “Float” and “Level Skip” and others that are defined by their bottom end: “Dream Reality” and the hints of jungle in its breakbeat. “Slip” also falls in that realm, riding an easy groove built on a hip-hop beat. Even more, it calls back to the decade when acts like Phoenecia and Prefuse 73 were playing with an early idea of intelligent dance music (IDM), pumping out the U.K.-influenced music from the Miami area. 

Back then closes with “Hearing Colors,” a pensive downtempo track. It wanders along with a melancholic melody, strings, and mutated, cartoon-like voices adding emphasis later on. The project ends on a similar note as it began, with a feeling of otherworldliness that gives way to something more concrete and down to earth.

Listening to this album, it’s easy to forget that this producer curates literal club nights. It’s disarmingly mellow on the surface but it’s the beats and the bass that set it up for more than just an armchair listen. He takes music made for the party and merges it with calming synths, quirky sound elements, and wistful, heady melodies, bringing together an updated vision of dance music. It’s not just loud and fast, it’s a complete vibe. It’s his strongest musical statement so far after years of giving us glimpses of how versatile he can be.

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