In her monthly column, Ruth Saxelby identifies some of the trends that are shaping modern music. In this edition, the blurring of boundaries in Balearicism. Illustration by Inka Gerbert.
Summer is over but the feeling never dies. It haunts and taunts: a phantom warm breeze on the back of your neck, a taste-memory of cold beer on the beach, the chemical tang of suntan lotion hitting the back of your throat for a single wistful second. Like imaginary sun rays, Balearic beat was a feeling rather than a musical genre. Born in the late 1980s on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza, so the fable goes, Balearic beat is widely credited to the open-minded selection policy of a young Argentinian music critic turned DJ called Alfredo Fiorito. His philosophy was anything goes as long as it got people dancing, which meant anything that sounded good on ecstasy: house, disco, indie rock and vaguely cheesy pop music all got a look in. Twenty-five years on, chiming with our era’s hyper-connected, multi-tab times, Alfredo’s blurring of boundaries has become music’s default setting. Referencing half a dozen things at once has become the norm. Purism feels quaint by comparison. Balearic beat as a euphoria-inducing selection style has morphed into Balearicism. Again, not a genre but a musical quality and approach: the chasing of an elusive feeling—often euphoria’s ghost—by any means possible. “It’s everything time”, Gang Gang Dance wisely intoned in the intro to their own Balearicism banger, “Glass Jar”, back in 2011. They’re not the only ones keeping the Balearic candle burning.
Shape Worship – “Throughways”
London producer Shape Worship makes music that relishes existing between worlds, simultaneously dancing on the peripheries of house, dub, and ambient. Texturally, all is a blur on his new 7”, the A-side of which is “Throughways”: a slow-burn number that whispers sweet Balearicism nothings into the ear. Underpinned by bubbling tones that splutter and pop beguilingly, it builds to the kind of blunted euphoria that exists and is re-experienced in the memory.
Real Lies – “World Peace”
Then there’s UK trio Real Lies who are doing a grand job of reviving the loved-up lads archetype that Balearic-friendly bands like New Order and Happy Monday established in the nineties. They’ve got that ecstatic/melancholic dynamic down to a tee. “World Peace” is only their second single but it’s a bona fide hands-in-the-air anthem. Built around a sample from French artist Jean-Luc Ponty’s 1983 album track “Computer Incantations for World Peace”, it conjures up the thrills and spills of a lost night with all the abandon of the lived moment.
JCCG – “Eje”
At the other end of the spectrum is Portuguese artist JCCG. As well as running an excellent cassette label called Exo Tapes, he makes music under a bunch of different pseudonyms but his main squeeze is JCCG. “Eje” is the title track from his new album on Mexican label Department Tapes and, with just a looping, decaying guitar riff, it compresses Balearicism’s obsession with lost euphoria to something impressionistic and deeply affecting.
RxGibbs – “Retrograde”
The industrial grind of Detroit’s Michigan couldn’t be further from the White Isle, yet it is the source for some of this year’s most Balearic music. Producer RxGibbs released his debut album ‘Contact’ on Cascine (incidentally a label with a taste for the Balearic, just this year reissuing Swedish duo Boat Club’s dreamy 2007 album Caught the Breeze) and the vinyl edition featured this bonus track. “Retrograde” kicks off in a Sueño Latino-ish house vein before coming over a touch new age.
Panoram – Everyone Is A Door
Italian producer Panoram could be the embodiment of Balearicism. His debut album Everyone Is A Door was released by Edinburgh label Firecracker this summer and, from horizontal funk to cosmic disco, there’s barely a genre that doesn’t breeze through it. If Real Lies are the night on the tiles, Panoram is coming to on the beach, sand in your hair, just in time to watch the sun rise. ~
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