The waves: what's this balearic music?

Balearic is a word that’s thrown around a lot in 2018. Balearic style, balearic beat, balearic house – it’s just balearic, innit? But is it? A quick look at the balearic category here on 45turns will turn back music from deep house to downtempo to Brasilian funk and ambient. Does that mean they’re necessarily balearic? To me, yes. But whether my definition of balearic is true to what was originally ‘balearic’ is a different matter. Was there an original balearic sound? Some might say. And is that sound balearic in 2018? Is this even something we should be thinking about?
Nah, man. Sit down, chill out and listen to this.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MsrJEn5xcYc&w=550&h=425]

People are confused about balearic music in pretty much the same way they’re confused about a genre like deep house, for example. What is ‘deep’ about house in 2018? Well, you might go back and ask ‘what is original deep house?’ and find out about Larry Heard and the movements going on in 1980s Chicago that led to the creation of a track like ‘Can You Feel It‘. While there may have been examples of proto-deep house prior to this (Azymuth, anyone?), Mr. Fingers provided the definite signal of a new framework in electronic music with its own sounds, tempo and textures.
These days anything with some floaty pads and a four-to-the-floor beat is called deep house. The difference between this and something like balearic, though, is that you can usually tell when something really is not deep house. There’s a set of generic conventions that dictate whether something is house, deep house, garage house, dream house… the list goes on. The difference with balearic is that a song in any of these styles – or pop, reggae, rock, classical, ambient, soul, downtempo – could necessarily be considered balearic. Balearic music, or balearic beat, is a far more equivocal term, existing in a liminal space between sunrise and sunset. And more confusing than anything is that balearic music in 2018 might not even exist – because it might never have done in the first place.

[youtube [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iyv5SOXjvEU&w=550&h=425]]

A brief history of balearic beat

The music that was called balearic in the mid-80s was the record collections of a handful of open-minded DJs who used the isolated Mediterranean setting of the white isle to experiment with the records they played, taking their crowd in a different direction and towards a new appreciation of sound and music.
Ibiza, with its handy location in the middle of the balearic sea, was a hotspot for DJs and party people from all over Europe and the world. British, Italian and German jockeys all made their way to the hippie retreat of the white isle with cases of records in tow. Hence the stuff being heard was a melange of really eclectic styles, from German new wave and Italian pop to Mediterranean guitar and classical pastoral orchestras – not genearic, but balearic. Unlike conventional genres, balearic music never came custom-made: it wasn’t created on purpose, but was rather an attitude towards playing records cultivated by certain DJs – Alfredo at Amnesia being the main culprit – and later Phil Mison and Jose Padilla at the Café del Mar.

people wondering what is balearic music
Balearic people, Ibiza, circa 1984.

The freedom that had always been associated with Ibiza meant that people would dance to whatever, and the fact that people would dance to whatever meant that clever DJs could really push the boat out in their selection, mixing and technical decisions. Cue all-night parties with blissed-out crowds, creating a sort of spiritual oneness with the music and the surroundings. Sunrise sessions playing 45s at 33rpm where all of a sudden the world slows down. An incomparable feeling that right here, right now, everything is right. A collective appreciation for something more sybaritic, brought on by sun, drink, drugs, dancing, chatting nonsense and no-one caring and, most of all, the sonic waves.
Amnesia, Ibiza, What Is Balearic? on 45turns
Amnesia, one of the birthplaces of balearic beat

In the following years folk like Danny Rampling and Nancy Noise tried to bring this music, this style, or maybe more than anything, this attitude, to London, in clubs like Shoom in Southwark or The Future, behind Heaven. At this time it started to be known as balearic beat and publications like Boys Own popped up to cover this night time economy of freedom, expatriated from the white isle to the basements of dingy London clubs. All this late-night deviance was the breeding ground for the acid house and piano house action from 1988 – the ‘Summer of Love’, or known by some purists as ‘the year balearic died’. And music which came to be produced with the balearic moniker in mind was an attempt to channel the essence of both the original Ibiza parties and the London gatherings after them. Some of it is good, some of it is awful: a quick youtube search of ‘balearic music’ will bring back tons of rubbish that identifies itself as balearic, but this highly processed, built-to-brief sound doesn’t really represent the original spirit in a way that a late 70s German synth track from way before ‘balearic music’ was even thought of might. .
balearic music revellers in london
Revellers at London’s ‘original balearic club’, The Future.

Even with that brief history, we haven’t come much closer to a solid definition of what balearic music isIf you wanted to break it down, there might be three distinct sounds to look for. Or maybe four. Ooh.. balearic house in itself could be three or four different sounds. In fact, maybe the best way to do it is to describe a perfect balearic day out, somewhere in the sun. Here goes…

A VERY BALEARIC 24 HOURS

9am – wake up very slowly, make a coffee and head onto the balcony. The sun is halfway up its daily ascent and you’ve got a vista of the sea, or perhaps some mountains. The remains of last night’s balearic session are strewn across the table. Play: the classical Mediterranean crossover stylings of Penguin Café Orchestra.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKkgErVG7Cg&w=550&h=425]

12pm – have a banana, because there’s nothing more balearic than that. After your balearic banana, enjoy a midday beer with the spaced-out sounds of Idjut Boys as you squint in the midday sun.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1kbEr2lD8A&w=550&h=425]

3pm – cocktails, swimming, a quick game of football, a phone call to a friend – anything you like. But, most importantly, some Japanese balearic sounds to see you through the afternoon.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ASt2cHHgcw&w=550&h=425]

7pm – blurry sunset over the horizon. Good friends around. Old friends, new friends and a feeling of extreme contentedness with the world and everything in it. On the speakers? Ray Mang’s ‘Look Into My Eyes’:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ZBhFVTAUPA&w=550&h=425]

9pm – a quick change of clothes, if you feel that way out, before heading off into the night and all its vices. Booze, lust, anticipation, Code 61: ‘Drop The Deal’.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gGr8O40OXs&w=550&h=425]

You hear the bass at 45 seconds in and triumphantly declare: ‘that’s balearic!’
11pm  you’re on the way to somewhere, but you’re not quite sure where, or why, and you’re a bit pissed. All you know is that you’re going there and it’s balearic. Get there. They’re playing Mushrooms Project:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tSeVVPkFU34&w=550&h=425]

1:30am – It’s the middle of the night, you’ve made loads of new friends and you’ve already forgotten most of them. The DJ is a maverick and decides to turn things south. Cue the rolling Balearic synth lines of Rozlyne Clarke’s ‘Dancin’ Is Like Making Love’ (Dub 2).

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxwpIXj8cY8&w=550&h=425]

3am – who better than Italo house pioneer Don Carlos to take the dancers by the hand, guiding you into wide-eyed euphoria? When the keys of ‘Play It Again’ come in, it feels like the stars above are spinning a magic tapestry just for you:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8WNYT1KtG6g&w=550&h=425]

5am – the crowd has thinned out, leaving a devoted core of balearic warriors to dance away the last remaining hours of night. Moments are being created left right and centre, but when the Cool & Breezy Mix of Mandy Smith’s ‘I Just Can’t Wait’ is played, everyone thinks that they finally know what balearic is.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJXjXRqmJ-M&w=550&h=425]

7:30am – the first warm rays of the morning sun slip out over the horizon, and you’ve moved onto the beach with a motley crew of drinkers, dancers and DJs. By the time the double-time frenzy of the last section of Elkin & Nelson’s ‘Jibaro’ is over, the sun sits firmly in the morning sky and you want to do it all over again. So you do.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9oh7nK7tkY&w=550&h=425]

Is there a common thread that runs through all of this music? In my mind, its the waves. The image of the waves is something that I believe is central to what we call balearic music and its sound, its roots, its ethos and its persistence. Rolling synths, lapping drums and build ups that never come, guitar lines that could go on forever, a beat that never ends. Balearic music, like the waves, is in constant flux, ebbing and flowing with the world around it, always reinvigorating itself, always fresh. Balearic is brilliant, off-the-grid, life affirming, spiritual, restless, downtempo, uptempo, tribal, disco, folky, eclectic, endless and free. It can be anything you want it to be, as long as its balearic, and maybe that’s the best way to look at it.

– SIBSON


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Fern World – Dawn Again & Rothmans [Roam Recordings]

Roam Recordings have been putting out solid bleary-eyed disco slabs for nearly a year now, and this time they enlist the skills of Australia’s Dawn Again and UK underground stalwart Rothmans, who, in another life, heads up an eponymous vinyl-only label. The Fern World EP is tribal, trippy, and conjures up all sorts of meanderings about how life must be in the rainforest.

First track ‘Fern Again’ is a downtempo chugger, one that wouldn’t be amiss in the infant hours of A Love From Outer Space set. It uses soaring synth pads to illuminate a killer combo of breezy timpani melodies and forceful 4×4 kicks, tidying things up with neat arpeggiated motifs and rainforest FX.

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Eddie C’s remix (B2) is firetime in the forest. Watch the embers morph and spit out crystal white projections like a burning, luminous head of hair. That’s what they talked about! Breakbeat propellers and polyphonic harmonies have met in secret to devise up Eddie C’s Red Room Remix, and now you are tripping. The slo-mo disco and acid house vet ratchets up the title track, bringing in heavy, spacey percussive elements reminiscent of, say, Jaydee’s ‘Plastic Dreams’, but in the aim of a pre-midnight mood setter rather than a heads-down rave sort of feel.

If you are looking for a bit of a filthier venture, though, ‘Clockbert’ on the flip brings the rolling balearic waves to acid’s house in a dirty midnight chugger that would once again join the dots in a Love From Outer Space set. AIMES remix of the same track ups the carnage even further in an unrelenting, completely spaced-out galactic voyage reserved only for the point in the night where you’ve forgotten where, and who, you are.

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Mind-bending business from this cast of cosmic cats.

Fern Again was released 21st Sep on Roam US. Pick it up at Juno, maybe, and get the digital at Roam Recording’s Bandcamp.

Idjut Boys & Laj – Slateo [Claremont 56]

This one comes from Idjut Boys and Laj, the latter otherwise known as slow disco maestro Ray Mang, bringing out a deep, dubbed-out groover designed for mojitos by the water. The track floats along in tranquility as the riverbank trees cast moving shadows, caressing the surfaces of your vessel. Music for sailing.
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This slice of paradise first appeared on the 2002 Session Recordings label compilation Solidsession Vol. 2, so, really, there’s nothing stopping you from seeking that one out on Discogs. But then, rather than a gorgeously pressed blue and green one-sided vinyl – of which there are only 350 copies – you get some dusty black records in the post, probably scratched to hell like most of that early 2000s wax that everyone thought was worthless.
Claremont 56 are setting things right, like they always do.
‘Slateo’ is released 11th July 18 on Claremont 56. 350 copies, one per customer – pre-order here

Benedek – Earlyman Dance EP [Second Circle]

Benedek supplies the tenth outing on Music From Memory’s more shuffle orientated counterpart, Second Circle. 

Hailed as the progenitor of ‘balearic funk’, Benedek has forged a name with standout releases on Peoples Potential Unlimited and Leaving Records. This next release on Second Circle is another step in the right direction for the LA-based DJ and producer.
‘Sub Terra’ is a giant robot guzzling humans at the crack of dawn on the streets of Koreatown, LA. The Uplift mix, which covers the rest of side A, strips the tune down, honing in on that springy bassline and building things back up with soft, delay-soaked percussion.
Over on the flip ‘Maca’ is cheeky undulating fun with flecks of acid around the sides, while ‘Timbalito’ introduces a spaced-out vibe workout to the sordid tones of synth bass and trumpet. Final track ‘Nucid’ slows things down with a subdued space romp more reminiscent of an outing on sister imprint Music From Memory. Overall, peaceful and meditative stuff that could also work in a club or festival setting.
Pick up Earlyman Dance at musicfrommemory.com. Remember to like 45turns on Facebook to stay in the loop on the best new balearic, funk, disco, house and world releases on vinyl and beyond. 


Watch Benedek’s live session on Resident Advisor, performing ‘Earlyman Dance’, which would later become ‘Sub Terra’:

James Dole – Ex EP [Bergerac]

Feel the shimmering waves of James Dole’s Ex EP on Bergerac. 
At the beginning of May, Berlin-based Jens Dohle (humorously Anglicised as James Dole) dropped his ‘Ex EP’ on Bergerac, a local label headed up by Red Rack’em,
Unafraid to push the limits of what might be acceptable in a club environment, title track ‘Ex’ stomps through in majestic euphoria, stirring up four minutes of layered lo-fi percussion and industrial techno sensibilities before an anthemic synth pad work-out for the ages.
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/440477142″ params=”color=#ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&show_teaser=true&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”300″ iframe=”true” /]
‘Ex’ covers the whole of side A, and by the time you’ve flipped over you’re deep in the throes of balearic madness. ‘Fantasia’ is an exercise in sample riding that invites an immersion of the more personal kind. Dole creates a deep house fabric from which majestic chords seep through, drenching it in perspiration. This is heavy, heads-down lunacy with an introspective touch – you may well feel like you’ve done something wrong.
Third and final track ‘Grande’ takes a softer approach while retaining that angry metallic bass sound that we hear throughout the EP. There’s also subtle nods to broken beat in a breakdown flanked by echoscaoes and meandering moog.
Outsider music at its most accessible: James Dole is creeping in around the edges. For the deepest of Berlin basements.
Ex EP is out now on 12″. Pick it up at Juno


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Smith & Mudd – Janet 50 [Claremont 56]

The head honchos at Claremont 56 are back to celebrate ten years of their label. 
Smith & Mudd’s ‘Janet 50’ feels like London today: bright, airy and sizzling hot. It’s been two years since they’ve brought out material under their duo moniker, yet this latest EP, with its strolling groove, hypnotic shakers and rich guitar sweeps, picks up seamlessly from where Gorthleck left off . It has one of those chord progressions that could go on forever, bending and shapeshifting back onto itself while the pair build dense rhythmic layers around it.
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On the flip, I:Cube delivers a stunning dancefloor ready remix that veers as much towards nu-disco as it does towards balearic, but it retains all the blissful, slow-mo madness of the original. Likely to be heard at sunrise sets over the Mediterranean this Summer.
(45turns tip: watch out for a full release from Smith & Mudd later this year.)
‘Janet 50’ is released 30th May 2018. You can get the 12″ or digital version at Claremont 56’s Bandcamp page

Kazumi Watanabe – Garuda [Jazzy Couscous]

Cheekily named Jazzy Couscous have brought out an ambient experiment by Japanese jazz maestro Kazumi Watanabe that got lost somewhere in the 80s. It’s intricate and ethereal, conjuring up rainbow tones in high-fidelity.. Accompanying it is a sort of balearic remix from Kuniyuki, who adds tribal and natural elements to mesmerising effect.

 
Mood-making solitary listening.
Garuda was released on 26/3/18, and you can find it over at Juno

Azura – Paraiso '89 [World Building]

Some have waited thirty years for this. Picture yourself on the white island, 1989, basking in the soft glow of stimulants and moonlight. A piano house jaw dropper with a velvety helping of balearic nylon stylings. Echo, echo. Nobody knows much about Azura, but everybody who was there remembers this one.

Legendary soundtrack of technicolor summers, released now for the first time on vinyl. An instant classic, in some ways.

Paraiso ’89 is out now on World Building. Check Discogs for the vinyl. 

Koji Ono – Incognito EP [Chuwanga]

Koji Ono weaves balearic, deep house and boogie influences into a sensual poolside tapestry fit for the laziest of afternoons and headiest of sunsets. For fans of classy, jazz-inflected house stylings.

Four tracks that roll along with a soft breeze and easy lilt. Pitch it down a little and you’ll see what I mean. Sea-soaked synthesiser pads ring out over crisp claps. A record that I can’t help but describe via excessive alliteration. Stunning bass work that sounds anything but synthesised- there’s a real emphasis on ’natural’ feeling sounds used to create a set of deeply immersive mid-tempo cuts.

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Breezy and slightly cosmic, the 45turns way.

Incognito EP is available on digital and 12″ vinyl at Bandcamp

Bruxas – Más Profundo [Dekmante]

I tried to catch Bruxas’ Más Profundo when it first came out in June, but it had already eluded me. This week, Dekmantel have pressed another batch of this transatlantic gem, a balearic Lusophone disco hybrid that is already going down as one of the best releases of the year.
Title track Más Profundo recalls Ibiza beach whispers in sultry Portuguese female vox reels. This track, like the rest of the EP, manages to build itself around balearic sensibilities without ever dropping the tempo. Tropical birds perch on synthesisers; nature floats by in 4/4 time.  Sizzling, swirling and psychedelic, by the time it fades out, you wish it could go on forever.

Luckily, Tropicaçovas kicks it up a notch with the filthiest rhythm section this side of Bahia. Bruxas marry these traditional elements of Lusophone dance music with classic disco-era keys and arpeggiators to dazzling effect.
On the flip, Selva Cósmica stomps and trips along under Baldelli-style synthscapes, whisking you to the darkest of leaf-strewn Amazonian hideaways. Finally, Plantas Falsas digs into a cunning nu-disco workout as the sun drops low.

In 25 minutes of fuzzy balearic disco bliss, ‘Más Profundo’ sums up the entire 45turns ethos. An essential of 2017.
You can pick up ‘Más Profundo’ on 12″ vinyl at Dekmantel. Also like 45turns on Facebook for tons more next-level wax.