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Girl Ultra shifts back to her early influences to make a house-focused EP, 'El Sur'


Coming of age in Mexico City, Mariana de Miguel made music.

GIRL ULTRA: I was in a Mexican, like, DJ collective. I came out of high school, and I started playing with my high school friends. I had a band. And then everybody there was a DJ, so I learned.

RASCOE: She ditched film school, her original plan, to play DJ sets across the city. And she began releasing her own music under the moniker Girl Ultra.

GIRL ULTRA: Well, I was kind of focused in R&B in Spanish mainly 'cause it was a path that wasn't really explored in my country, in Mexico. Like, R&B got infiltrated in pop music from the '90s, from the 2000s. But there was not really, like, a scene. So that felt like a challenge for me, and I accepted it.


GIRL ULTRA: (Singing in Spanish).

RASCOE: She made a name for herself in Spanish R&B. But in her new EP "El Sur," a nod to the south side of Mexico City, she shifts back to some of those original DJ, house music influences of her youth.

GIRL ULTRA: I really wanted to do something different with my voice and with the delivery of who Girl Ultra is.

RASCOE: She says there's one track on the EP called "Bombay" that exemplifies that unexpected sound. The song kicks off with a four-on-the-floor rhythmic pattern that's very popular in electronic dance music.

GIRL ULTRA: Then it comes from a very low-register verse that I had never explored, like the kind of register in the rest of my songs. And it's fun to do that.


GIRL ULTRA: (Singing in Spanish).

RASCOE: And there's a familiar sample underneath.

GIRL ULTRA: It started as a joke, sampling the part of, like, LL Cool J and J.Lo's song - like, the zih-zih-zih (ph).


LL COOL J AND JENNIFER LOPEZ: (Singing) Zih-zih-zih-zih-zih. Zih-zih-zih. Zih-zih-zih, zih-zih, zih-zih. Zih-zih-zih.

GIRL ULTRA: And it sounded like a hook to me.


GIRL ULTRA: (Singing) Zih-zih-zih, zih-zih, zih-zih. (Singing in Spanish).

The chorus say, you and me - what's the worst that can happen? We just get high. We touch the sky. And nobody can bring us, like, back to the floor, you know?


GIRL ULTRA: (Singing) Zih-zih-zih. Zih-zih-zih, zih-zih, zih-zih.

RASCOE: Mariana says the song represents that feeling of hitting things off with a stranger at a party and running away to a secret corner together.


GIRL ULTRA: (Singing in Spanish).

Then the chorus, and then everything explodes. And it's pretty fun. It's even pretty fun to see how people react to it live. They just go insane. I never expected to see people having that much fun in a show of mine.


GIRL ULTRA: (Singing) Zih-zih-zih, zih-zih, zih-zih. (Singing in Spanish).

RASCOE: Girl Ultra is currently touring across the country. And she says the audience's interaction with her new material differs a lot from her old stuff.

GIRL ULTRA: R&B is more ethereal, you know? Like, you give freedom for people to interpret and to move their bodies the way they want. But when you give people club music or rock music, they just react to it naturally.

RASCOE: This EP and this song came out of a time where Mariana lived with her producer, with the studio right above her apartment.

GIRL ULTRA: I was creating a movement. Like, when I was making this EP, I was in total stillness.

RASCOE: It was a Zen working environment, which contrasted strongly with the music they were working on.

GIRL ULTRA: It was the fastest-paced music that I've ever done, and the most energetic. So it feels good to just give life to it.

RASCOE: And "Bombay," she says, is the peak of that energy, which is why every night, with a live band, she plays it as the encore to end her set. This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.