Looking For The Balearic Beat / August 2020

Paraphrasing the Soul Sonic Force and sorting through today`s releases for tunes that could have graced Alfie & Leo`s Amnesia dance floor.

This is a mixture of new stuff, new stuff that channels old stuff – I mean nothing is created in a vacuum but somethings wear their influences more obviously than others – plus some reissued old stuff – most of it about to “drop” on Record Store Day. 

Earlier this week I spoke to Leo Mas & Sally Rodgers about This Unspoken Love – their new tune – with Fabrice – on Music For Dreams, and I also wrote about how wonderful Ruf Dug`s lockdown project – Ruffy Makes A Tune – is. Right at the start of the month I was trying to cover the vast quantity of new jazz that’s hitting shops. Part of which was “promo” for On The Corner`s expansive Door To The Cosmos comp. A 4 x 12” vinyl set that contains numerous direct dance-floor hits. Clive From Accounts` The Rain has to be one of my favourite house tracks of the year so far, while Jose Marquez` ritual reimagining of the traditional Venezuelan ceremony – La Negra Lorenza – reminds me a lot of River Oceans` classic Love And Happiness – all those extended Sound Factory-inspired workouts – Super Dubs – that X-Press 2 were creating back in the mid-90s. A dynamic drama of gospel-esque organ keys, congregation hand-clapping, and Santería / Yoruba drums. Invoking the Oricha, and inducing deep disco trances. Summoning spirits, and at the very least possessing your feet. 

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Coming from Zurich’s Drum Poet Community and straight out of the scene surrounding the city`s Club Zukunft, is Florin Buchel`s new 45 on Phantom Island. Proper Distance is downtempo machine-assisted jazz-funk, given a kinda reggae rub, and featuring some damn fine flashy guitar. Loose enough to let you know that Florin’s friends really can play, and paying passing homage to the Japanese virtuosos of 80s fusion – e.g. Masayoshi Takanaka, Yuji Toriyama, Ryo Kawasaki – who dreamt of tropical climes. On the flip of the 7”, Comoving Distance is a rattling piece of dub which finds sharp shards of that guitar lost in Black Ark percussion, and whose phased keys give the tune a feel that’s more slo-mo house than skank. 

Alma Negra are from neighbouring Basel. While the duo, brothers Dersu and Diego Figuiera, hail from Europe – with Cape Verde roots – the music on their Dakar Disco E.P., for Heist Recordings, bounds between continents. Back In Town is off to South America. A batucada bolstered by balafon and TB-303. The also latin-flavored, Contra, is a chunky Nu Yorcian conga groove. A disco / house express train – its cowbell clanging as it dances over mirror-balled points. The title track however heads over to West Africa, Senegal – name-checking the country’s capital while making with the mid-tempo`d mad-Moog`d afro-funk. Brass blasting fanfares between bursts of phased and backwards guitar. Japan’s Kuniyuki, for the remix, turns those horns into a tribute to King Tubbys Hometown Hi-Fi. Giving the walls of Jericho an Old Testament bashing. He also distresses that Moog to Larry Levan Ain`t No Mountain High Enough levels. Having it screaming amidst dubbed-out shouts and riding a rumbling post-punk b-line. Dropping the drums in and out of warehouse party reverb.

More heavily dub-influenced – be it JA or JA via Basic Channel and Berlin – music from Japan comes care of Osaka`s Akio Nagase. He has 5 tracks good to go with Singapore’s Darker Than Wax which mix reggae with house. Sound system SFX – laser blasts – and digital dancehall b-lines with old school Chicago touches. Dub-wise drum rolls, righteous roots horns with David Cole-esque pianos and flirtatious 303 fingerings. On Acid Kid children’s voices bounce against Roland`s silver box, while on the slightly more `avin` it Acid Teng Shing Heng, the little angels are replaced by manic laughter, and a tambura-like buzz of Middle Eastern melody. Sunday Park Jazz is an astutely looped beatdown lick. Where the finger snapping feels like a whip-cracking, but the saxophone wailing is off-set by gentle ivory tinkling and a counterpoint of calming flute. 

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Test Pressing`s Apiento displays his own slightly technoid take on dub-wise, with his remix of Cantoma`s Closer, for Highwood Recordings. Beats booming like Andrew Weatherall sharing a spliff with Saint Etienne. Bass shaking rooms, buildings, planes, trains, and automobiles – wherever you happen to be – as it bends and flexes – warm and womb-like, back and forth – while the clarinet now echoes The Grid`s seminal Short Film About Chilling float. The arrangement stripped down to subtle synth sighs and cryptic keys, a bit like a bleep-influenced vamp on Culture Beat`s Cherry Lips. 

Tony Watson`s AIRS, on Adult Contemporary, mines a very similar vein of downtempo acid / bleep business. It`s a smidgen less stripped back, and driven by a kinda Take Me To The Mardi Gras cowbell refrain. For me, this one – despite its higher BPMs – is more sunset / sunrise, entry / re-entry – than the Apiento Vs. Cantoma post-midnight mid-rave epiphany.

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Bang Bang Ritual`s Can’t Go On Without Ya, on Jansen Jardin, is a bonkers piece of modern balearic. Described in the press release as “goth-a-billy” to my ears it seems to be intent on reviving the brief “indian rock” phenomenon that gripped US rock`n`rollers for a minute in the late 1950s. Invoking The Cult’s peyote ceremony shamanism, and crossing that with Map Of Africa covering The Equals. The vocal – provided by Zimbabwean in Toronto, D.C. Mathias – is crazy, camp, contagious. A little bit The Skatt Bros. Walk The Night, and a little bit that Village People edit that Harvey used to hammer. Slightly sleazy yeah, but with its tongue very much in someone`s cheek – if not its own. 

Bang Bang Ritual copy

Can`t Go On Without Ya is rumored to have been made with A Love From Outer Space in mind, and ALFOS` pilot, Sean Johnston, has a ton of music to about to land. The most balearic of which is an E.P. for Le Temps Perdu. Released under the moniker A Mountain Of Rimowa** the record packages 4 originals, plus a remix by the NYC team of Justin Strauss and Max Pask. Each of the tracks bears a recognizable sample, or recreation there of, spanning the genres of soul, post-punk, and house. But these aren’t edits, or even “radical reinterpretations”. More affectionate nods. Since the borrowed bits aren’t core to the tunes. They aren’t the hooks. More an anchor, a leaping-off point. Sometimes only really evident in the intros and outros. Perhaps deliberately acknowledging the past while reaching for, and returning from, the future. No More takes a line from a soulful chart hit and kinda uses its sentiment – of love and understanding, an end to all wars – as its stance. Re-contextualizing these Shoom favourites in a purely electronic setting. Raining down racing arpeggios and anthem-ic piano. The production betraying its author`s love of Italo and synth pop. Joker replays a section of treated post-punk guitar / ambient isolationist dub. Using it to build a buzzing forceful throb around a skipping motorik rhythm, bleeps and a New Order-esque b-line. Brothers And Sisters In The West on the other hand bases its bass riff on that of an instantly recognizable 80s house classic. The new beat flavoured Brothers And Sisters In The East begins with a plaintive piano, and Sci-Fi synths, before being pounded, but not pulverized, by a beat that`s ​a bit like a machined take on the Bar-Kays Holy Ghost break. Computerized cowbell going crackers. Creating an open-minded EBM of Spacer Women searching for Native Love, and summoning seminal “proto” stuff, such as Severed Heads` Greater Reward.

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Very Polish Cut Outs have a new sampler out, Number 7. Four tracks of reworked pop. Izabela Trojanowska`s Jestem Twoim Gzechem, when manhandled by DYYUNE, is the sort of cosmic sleaze that Velvet Season & The Hearts Of Gold usually dig up. A banging 4 / 4 grounding its drama of cascading sonar-like bleeps and siren-like arcs. Mid-way through it drops into a drum and whistle carnival, which in turn then sucks on a spiked sugar cube. TAMTEN_FOPA`s Nostalgic Rave Mix of Bajm`s Jezioro Szczęścia has its hushed vocals accompanied by a whistling synth melody while bouncing to ballistic breaks. The chug of Stachy.DJ`s Wersja Dub of Kombi`s Obiecany Raj is dominated by great guitar work – delicately picked, and then fuzzed-out fat. These tunes might have been birthed by the Baltic, but the DYYUNE & BISTI retooling of Fiesta`s W Moim Niebie Nie Ma Gwiazd sounds positively Mediterranean. Its lysergic-ally looped seductive seduction boogie being very Mike Francis in mood. A mixture of damn fine downbeat science and super sharp jazz chords. 

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I’ve mentioned Black Rox` This Poem before but it grows and grows this one. The combination of the lifted lyric and Roots Unit`s rising synth line proves to be emotion stirring stuff – especially in these complicated times. Also check the recently re-discovered Jungle Wonz track, Human Condition, on Club Chi’ll Records, for a similar virtuous vibe. 

August 29th`s RSD Drop has a few house classics cued-up, one of which is Code 718`s Equinox. Originally released on Strictly Rhythm in 1992, this is Danny Tenaglia`s tribute to Manuel Gottsching – with an additional nod to The Orb`s Little Fluffy Clouds thrown in. It`s coming on coloured vinyl, and is absolutely essential – especially if your as obsessed with E2-E4 as I am (do I feel a “version excursion” mix coming on?). 

To those not in “the know” D.Mob`s We Call It Acieeed might have seemed a bit cheesy back when it was released in 1989. An exploitative, a cash-in on the “evil acid house” craze that was sweeping, seizing the dispossessed youth of Thatcher`s Britain. It was a rallying call – aped ad infinitum by “teds” nationwide. But now over 30 years later it stands as a kind of testament to how central and important its “vocalist”, Gary Haisman, was to “the scene”. Made more poignant by his untimely passing. Like a human lightning conductor Haisman was THE “conduit” that helped create the balearic and acid house  “movement” in the capital. Haisman had been clubbing 7 days a week from the minute he could pass for 18. Cafe de Paris, Chaguaramas, Crackers, Louise’s, Ronnie Scott’s, Scamps….he was a regular everywhere and knew everyone. By the mid-80s he was promoting his own events, such as No Sleep Til Brooklyn at Oxford Street`s 100 Club, and The Raid. It was Gary who took the Boys Own editorial team to Zigi`s in Streatham, and then Shoom. It was Gary who made the introductions, provided the connections, directed the artwork even, and fired the enthusiasm. London Records have lined-up a 12″ of remixes for RSD, which I’ve not heard, but it would be rude, disrespectful even, to not give the OG a spin – 9 minutes of musical “XTC”, hip-housing, and getting “right on one, matey”. 

Also out – on a 45 – on RSD is another hip house landmark, Jungle Brothers` I`ll House You, on Idlers. 

Swapping the rap for a banging Joanna, Alison Limerick`s Where Love Lives is a timeless piece of piano house. Faultlessly fashioned by Frankie Knuckles, Eric Kupper, David Morales, John Poppo, and Peter “Ski” Schwartz. In 1990, you, like me, would have heard it everywhere – but reminds me in particular of the parties at Flying and Gosh. Where the crowd would sing / shout along and point accusing fingers as they mimed to the line, “Don`t reach out to me with an apology”. The song felt like sun breaking cloud in a blue sky, no matter the hour. No matter what kind of week you’d had. It was over-played for sure, but cheesy? Never. I have to admit that I gave my copy away decades ago, during one of those all back to mine sessions where someone says, “I love this record” and I’m high and thinking “Fuck it I’ve got 1000s of others.” On a separate occasion under similar circs I “gifted” a friend of my sister`s with Larry Levan`s mixes of DJ H`s Come On Boy – which will illustrate the kind of state I used to get in. Where Love Lives is another classic coming on RSD.

Finally there`s a comp, a retrospective from Bongo Joe – a collaboration with Mountain Of Tongues – focused on Rustem Quliyev`s Azerbaijani Gitara. A selection of full-on frantic, fuzzbox fretwork, that borrows influence from the borders of Rustem`s homeland: Armenia, Georgia, Iran, Russia, and Turkey. Tehran tarantellas, that send out shards of 6-string ecstasy. Percussive, spinning dervish dances, countered by market bazar ballads. Rustem`s electric axe sometimes battling a balalaika. From Bollywood there are Rajasthan riffs on Link Wray`s rock`n`roll rumbles. Sub-Saharan shredding, where desert winds blow in bringing with them a Peter Green blues. On the uptempo Tancor Disco there`s funky brass and organ interplay that’s almost house. Mellower moments recall Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan`s Sufi ceremonies. All of it aching with a story-telling ambience. Heat, dust, and history, hanging in its air. 

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**A Mountain Of Rimowa is a reference to the life of the “jetset” DJ, and high-end luggage. It is not – as I imagined – some occult Lovecraftian location. Then again, maybe it is.

Track-list

Florin Buechel – Proper Distance – Phantom Island
Akio Nagase – Roots Magic – Darker Than Wax
Cantoma – Closer (Apiento Remix) – Highwood Recordings
Tony Watson – AIRS – Adult Contemporary
Izabela Trojanowska – Jestem – Very Polish Cut Outs
Alma Negra – Dakar Disco – Heist Recordings
Akio Nagase – Acid Kid – Darker Than Wax
Ruf Dug – Episode 3-4 – Ruf Cutz
Code 718 – Equinox – Strictly Rhythm 
Black Rox – This Poem – Black Rox
Bang Bang Ritual – Can’t Go On Without Ya – Jansen Jardin
A Mountain Of Rimowa – Brothers And Sisters In The West – Le Temps Perdu
Leo Mas, Fabrice & Sally Rodgers – This Unspoken Love – Music For Dreams
Jose Marquez – La Negra Lorenza – On The Corner
D Mob – We Call It Acieeed – London
Jungle Brothers – I`ll House You – Idlers
Ruf Dug – Episode 12 – Ruf Cutz
Rustem Quliyev – Tancor Disco – Bongo Joe
Alison Limerick – Where Love Lives – Arista

Reference links

Takanaka
Yuji Toriyama
Ryo Kawasaki
Black Ark
Ain`t No Mountain High Enough
David Cole
Andrew Weatherall sharing a spliff with Saint Etienne
The Grid
Short Film About Chilling
Cherry Lips
Take Me To The Mardi Gras
The Cult
Map Of Africa`s Black Skinned Blue-Eyed Boys
Skatt Bros.
Village People edit
Paul Simonon
London Calling
Psycho Killer
Sabre Rattle
Velvet Season & The Hearts Of Gold
Mark Francis
E2-E4
Little Fluffy Clouds
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

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