Jose Padilla & The Cafe Del Mar / A Personal Top Ten

Today, Sunday October 25th – marking a week since Jose Padilla sadly passed away – Dean Smith`s Isolation Station will be hosting a tribute. After reading the piece I posted about Jose and his legacy, Dean contacted me and asked if I could also put something musical together. I’ve ended up with 12 hours of tunes – hopefully sort of seamlessly segued – which to the best of my knowledge Jose played at sunset, at the Cafe del Mar. To accompany that, this text trims those 150 tracks down to a personal top 10. 

To be perfectly honest my knowledge of the Cafe del Mar is largely second-hand. I’ve only been there once. My understanding of Jose`s musical legacy really comes from my friendship with Phil Mison – who DJed alongside Jose at the bar. Other people who were key in clue-ing me up were / are Richard “Moonboots” Bithell and Jolyon Green – both of whom turned me onto tons of stuff when Jose`s tapes were being “dissected” on the forum. There was also someone whose avatar was “Lilac Camel” whose real name I never learned. 

When, upon hearing the sad news, I pulled together a list of CDM tunes and it ran to a total of about 300. Genre-jumping across ambient, bossa nova, flamenco, jazz, new age, pop, rock, soul, and countless soundtracks. Music from labels such as Cadet, ECM, Windham Hill, and Innovative Communication. Cinematic compositions from Mark Isham, Ennio Morricone, Vangelis Papathanassiou, Eric Serra, and more contemporary pieces from Jose`s friends – artists who spent summers chilling listening to Jose at the Cafe del Mar. 

Penguin Cafe Orchestra – Music For A Found Harmonium

This quintessential “Cafe” track was released in 1984 by Simon Jeffes` hugely influential ensemble, Penguin Cafe Orchestra – which set out to fuse classical chamber music with folk elements from around the world. The story, ne legend, attached to this tune is that the first time Jose heard it was after-hours at Glory’s. Built on the site of an old dog-racing track, during the 70s Glory’s had been a traditional discotheque – whose major draw was an opulent open-air terrace / garden. Falling out of favour as competition from other venues such as KU and Pacha stiffened, it closed, then reopened – for just one season – as an “afters”, during the summer of `87. The DJs Nelo and Esteban Lohaz playing mainly harder EBM-edged sides to a crazy post-Amnesia crowd. But this is where Jose heard the PCO – and witnessed people doing that “kung-fu, karate-chopping” acid house dance to it – the one later patented by Danny Rampling at Shoom. Jose adopted the track and started including in his own sets, at Nightlife in San Antonio – where  the club owner said something along the lines of “If I hear that fucking Penguin record again, I`ll break it in two.”

Marvin Gaye – After The Dance

Jose played a stack of soul, and jazz, at sunset. A rich roll-call of artists. Louis Armstrong, Dorothy Ashby, Roy Ayres, James Brown, Miles Davis, Deodato, Wilton Felder, The Floaters, Stan Getz, The Isley Brothers, Bob James, Quincy Jones, Leo`s Sunship, Harold Melvin, Gil Scott-Heron, Nina Simone, Lonnie Liston Smith, and Jevetta Steele were all staples. But if forced to pick one track, above all the others in this genre, then it would have to be  something by Marvin Gaye. Jose once said, “Marvin Gaye is, I can say, my godfather. Every time I listen to him it fills my spirit.” Funky Space Reincarnation – which was a hit right across the island and probably also makes it into a Pacha “best of” list – You Sure Love To Ball, and I Want You, were spun in rotation – but After The Dance was the tune Jose chose to cover on his own debut LP, Souvenir. 

Tania Maria – Come With Me

Jose has also stated that, at aged 16, bossa nova and the beat of Brazil “changed completely my perception of music.” After previously only listening to rock & roll and soul it “opened like new doors for me.” Antonio Carlos Jobim, Astrud Gilberto, Tim Maia, and Sergio Mendes need honourable mentions, but personally, the slapped bass, sunshine scat, forever feelgood boogie of Tania Maria`s Come With Me takes the top spot. 

Pat Metheny – Mas Alla (Beyond)

More way-out jazz came in the shape of the organic fusions pioneered by the musicians signed to Manfred Eicher`s Munich-based label, ECM. The anguished screams of Jan Garbreck`s sax, Jon Hassell`s fourth world explorations, and the double-violin dexterity of Lakshminarayana Shankar. Pat Metheny, though…There’s the genius 6-string filigree of pieces like Au Lait and Sueno Con Mexico – both possibly pipped by the prayer-like vocals of percussionist, Pedro Aznar, on Mas Alla. 

OG unfortunately not on Youtube.

Richard Wahnfried – Druck

The output of the ECM imprint fused jazz with new age, and Jose also played a vast pile of the latter – new age, and then state-of-the-art electronics, at the Cafe del Mar. Cutting edge, experimental, but always accessible album tracks by Wally Badarou, Brian Eno, Steven Halpern, Jean-Michel Jarre, Kitaro, Chris Spheeris, and Yello. Revisiting Jose`s legendary tapes – which he’d sell in the hippie markets and from CDM`s DJ booth – it seems as if he had a copy of everything Klaus Schulze`s Innovative Communication label put out. Acts like Dancing Fantasy, Frank Fischer, and Software were heavily featured – plus the sine waves of Schulze himself. In particular the music released under his Richard Wahnfried alias – and especially Tonwelle`s tumbling ethno-electro sequences, smothered in celestial sighs and sad, but stirring, guitar. 

Wim Mertens – Struggle For Pleasure

In Jose`s hands soundtracks proved to be a fantastic way to musically open peoples minds. A way to introduce dancers indulging in a few pre-club cocktails to modern classical minimalism, system-based compositions, orchestral strings, and synthetic atmospheres – emotion-heightening themes they may well have recognized from the art-house movies they scored. This familiarity increasing their often nostalgic impact. Soundtracks by Burt Bacharach, Goran Bregovic, Frank Chacksfield, Peter Gabriel, Richard Horowitz, Mark Isham, Wim Mertens, Ennio Morricone, Jack Nitzsche, Michael Nyman, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Eric Serra, Tangerine Dream, Vangelis, Kilar Wojciech, and Gabriel Yared were all plundered. Wim Mertens` Struggle For Pleasure is an incredible demonstration of the composer`s piano power. His keys crashing relentlessly in wave after wave. The track – taken from his work for Peter Greenaway`s The Belly Of An Architect – also inspired Mental Generation`s 1993 balearic hit, and homage, Cafe Del Mar. Itself subsequenlty remixed into an epic breakbeat-driven blues by Jose`s friends, Underworld. 

A Man Called Adam – Estelle

Both Underworld and Leftfield were Jose`s amigos. The band`s DJ members, Darren Emerson and Paul Daley respectfully, sometimes sunset-selecting alongside him at the Cafe del Mar. Their music also segued into Jose`s sets. Likewise fellow CDM resident Phil Mison`s compositions as Cantoma, were constant spins. Phil`s music, for sure, at least at the outset, influenced by William Orbit`s seminal Strange Cargo LP. Another record that Jose “rinsed”. Jose`s choice of more modern electronics also took in the beatless version of The Sabres Of Paradise`s Smokeblech, and The Grid`s classic Flotation, in all of its forms, plus music that Jose commissioned for his ground-breaking “chill-out” compilations. Contributions from people picking up the beatific balearic baton from masters like Art Of Noise. Tracks by Mood Swings, Obiman, Pressure Drop, Sisterlove, Sun Electric, Tabula Rasa, and above all, A Man Called Adam`s Estelle – a time-less, time-less, love-filled tune. 

This Mortal Coil – Song To The Siren

Jose also played pop. Things that might be considered “guilty pleasures” by hip soul girls and boys. Chart hits from the Cocteau Twins, The Cure, Enya, Everything But The Girl, Julia Fordham, Annie Lennox, Stephen “Tintin” Duffy`s Lilac Time, Seal, Kurt Cobain favourites The Smithereens, Pete Wylie`s Mighty Wah!, and even U2. But in the context of Jose`s sunset, all of them were combined in a huge heartbroken swoon. Something maybe best exemplified by Cocteau`s side-project, This Mortal Coil`s ethereal cover of Tim Buckley`s Song To The Siren. 

In addition there was the politicized, left-leaning Its Immaterial, and I have a personal soft-spot for The Church’s To Be In Your Eyes – which reminds me of a series of parties hosted by Phil Mison and Steve Terry at London’s Cafe 1001. Saturday afternoon sessions that were – sort of – Jose and the Cafe del Mar`s mid-90s heyday relocated and reborn on the Eastend`s Brick Lane. Doos where this relatively unknown Antipodean LP cut would have the whole place punching the air and dancing on tables. 

Santana – Aqua Marine

Jose`s more conventional rock preferences tilted toward the “hippie”. For example, the stoned nature-loving sentiments of Steve Miller’s Wild Mountain Honey. But Jose also confessed to a glam phase – strutting about wearing make-up and “pink trousers, stuff like that.” He’s on record saying that Bowie was a “revelation”, “completely different to everything else”, “like a rebel to me”, and Brian Eno never left his box. The LSD-soaked electric-axe—heroics of Carlos Santana, however, and Aqua Marine, will be forever associated with Jose. 

Pink Floyd – More Main Theme

If it weren’t for Pink Floyd then Jose might never have even made it to The White Isle. At 21 he was seduced by the scenery and life-style he saw portrayed in Barbet Schroeder`s dark hippie flick, More. A movie shot around Punta Galera – where the director’s mother, Ursula, owned a house – that’s essential viewing for any Eivissa-phile. It was The Floyd who provided More`s soundtrack, and members of the band had witnessed Ibiza’s magic at first-hand. It was in 1967, that Roger Waters and Syd Barrett first holed-up on the neighbouring Formentera, in an attempt to halt – with assistance from showbiz sawbones, Dr Sam Hutt – Barrett`s tragic nose-dive into drug-induced madness. Barrett`s typically touching song, Wined & Dined, was penned there. Jose used to tell a story of his first island sunrise – how he and his friends – high on acid  – danced to the sounds of the band`s Wish You Were Here. 

Seigen Ono – Julia

Since Japan is currently my home, I`ll add a “plus one” here in her honour. Jose championed the solo work of Yellow Magic Orchestra members, Haruomi Hosono, and the aforementioned, Ryuichi Sakamoto. He also “broke” sought-after Japanese sides like Sth. Notional`s Yawn Yawn Yawn, and Dub Master X` re-jig of Silent Poets` Moment Scale. Seigen Ono`s Julia though – for an age – was something that had Cafe del Mar aficionados stumped. A bandoneon-led beauty*, it`s included in a short promo video that the Cafe produced in 1992. Commissioned for the catwalk by fashion house, Comme Des Garçons, in 1989, original European vinyl copies of the LP it`s lifted from remain super scarce, and the CD was / is only available in the land of the rising sun.

*For more balearic bandoneon business check tango maestro, Astor Piazzolla, whose Regresso La Amor is another certified Jose classic. 

You can hear all of these and a lot more today – starting at noon UK time – over at Dean Smith`s Isolation Station. Jose Padilla, thank you. Rest in peace.

6 thoughts on “Jose Padilla & The Cafe Del Mar / A Personal Top Ten

  1. A great tribute, Rob–that moment the strings enter and take “Julia” in another direction never fails to bring a tear to my eye… X


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