I was asked to write a piece for a friend about something relating to the website, so I have taken the easy way out and opted to talk about the main musical genre we focus on and obsess about, Balearic Beat. Thought I’d share it here. It’s a musical scene that is both niche and as wide as you like by its nature. It has followers in Japan, the UK, Argentina, Brasil, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway and most cities around the world, and is slowly poking its head above the water with the rest of the world starting to take note. If you go into hip Parisian boutique Colette half of the CDs on the wall will come from the ‘balearic’ scene. We spoke to Alfredo, Terry Farley, Lexx and others to get a take on it.
By definition, and harking back to it’s original origins, it means a musical style that means anything goes. To some it means a specific period in Ibizan clubbing history, as Terry Farley, DJ and producer, says when questioned. “Its all about Alfredo – pure and simple. A South American kid in exile looking at the rich and fabulous slumming it at an after hours club off their rockers and thinking ‘I can play anything and they will dance’. The UK take on Balearic is totally shaped by what he played in those two summer seasons before 1988. By ’88 by and large he was playing HOUSE – using that logic Balearic lived for two beautiful years then died a death in ’88.”
So what does Alfredo (above), one of the Godfathers of the whole scene, think? “Originally, it was as simple as me trying to make a party with a very cosmopolitan and different crowd very late at night, or very early in the morning!!! A crowd that came from another places and was open to a special experience. This fact gave me the opportunity to play all kinds of styles and tempos of music, and not only English, also Italian, French, Spanish, Brasilian, African, South American… That was the beginning. In actual terms – a mixture of chill out, lounge and dance music. At that time in Ibiza I could play soul, reggae, rock, pop, Latin, and if I like it, the crowd would like it. They where kind of ready for that. And I think they where looking for that `cos I was one of them!”
It’s certainly true that Alfredo was the original DJ and there are those like Farley who believe his playlist in those two years is where it began and ended, but there are thousands more around the world that picked the baton up and ran with it, loving the anything goes spirit of the genre that allowed DJs and producers to take in folk, ambient, house, R&B and whatever suits the mood.
Manchester duo Moonboots and Jason Boardman of the Aficionado club probably have a better take than most on the overall sound of the modern balearic beat. “Its all about playing anything good outside of the four-four mainstream for minds and feet with a balearic edge. Referencing the multi-tempo playlist of Ku (above in 1985), Shoom and the Cafe Del Mar, disco has been added to the mix alongside electronic and folky oddities.” Bill Brewster, author and DJ, shows the extremities of the genre, “Balearic Beat in 2012 is the same as it was in 2011, 1999 and 1984. It’s shit pop records and brilliant EBM records. It’s everything and nothing.” We disagree on the shit pop records but then we like The Blow Monkeys. Mark from International Feel, the label behind DJ Harvey’s recent releases amongst many others, also goes for the anything goes angle. “Balearic Beat is anything I want it to be… Anything you want it to be. In a world of digital noise, black sausage waveforms and ringtone pop music, its pure atmosphere and melody, the last bastion of real emotion in music. Or it maybe just Terje’s moustache!”
The Terje he mentions is Todd Terje. Norwegian Terje, a DJ, producer and maker of edits (we haven’t got space to go into those now), has recently show his ‘man most likely to’ colours and has been getting a big worldwide response to his recent ‘Inspector Norse’ release – a record that takes in disco, electronic sounds and his love for an analogue synthesizer, its the perfect track to show the dancefloor side of our sound. With the Pitchfork website taking notice of Terje’s release it seems the time for the balearic scene to step up is soon coming. Mudd, owner and producer of the uber-balearic label Claremont 56 agrees, “Modern balearic music seems to have upped it’s game. Last year saw some wonderful new music made with a few more band albums coming to the shores. This year will hopefully see some more of it being vocal led and with a fresher look on the style.”
The DJs find it hard to pin down. When asked for his thoughts, Swiss DJ Lexx, one of the scenes finest mix-tape meisters and respected DJ, says “I have no idea how to describe balearic beat in 2012. Is it really up to me to say/define what it is? Is there such a thing as balearic beat in 2012? I’m struggling with this one…” Its the undefinable that makes it almost like a secret society. You either get it or you don’t. In or out. Stuart Leath, long-time clubber and owner of soon-come record label Emotional Response thinks the DJing style of Lexx sums its up. “Just listen to how he puts it all together in his mixes and that for me pretty much captures it… No-one else is really close in my mind.”
So, what does it all mean to us at Test Pressing. It means the beautiful sounds of the Penguin Cafe Orchestra with their fusion of world and classical music in the 80s. It means finding strange records no-one has ever heard or hoping to find a B side on an Italian pop record with ‘that’ sound. It could be any of the host of new producers and DJs bringing the sound full circle to the current day and starting to bend its edges into new shapes. It’s getting a new mix for our website and marvelling at the amount of music that fits our world. It’s not just music. Anything can be balearic. The art-house film ‘Bagdad Cafe’ is very balearic for example, and on the subject of video, if you want to watch the most balearic thing ever then check the Ku Tourist clip ‘Look De Ibiza’ linked to below from the mid-80s with its amazing soundtrack. To summarise, to us its an attitude.
We’ll give the final word to Alfredo. A don and Ibizan legend. “My definition of Balearic; its a music mostly, eclectic, happy , sexy, not cheesy, that gets its roots in the origins of dance music and flourishes on the dancefloor, as a sound that makes you forget genres, or categories and you just enjoy it, listen to it, dancing and sharing it. Beat poetic, but real!“
Amnesia Closing Party With Alfredo JDing in 1989