I really thought this one was going to be easy. Especially since I guess I’m more associated with more downtempo, “ambient”, sounds. It turned out to be the trickiest. That’s why it’s taken a while. I had failed attempt before Christmas. shelved it and went back to the drawing board. Had a rethink.
If this series of round ups / reviews / mixes – Chocolate Milk & Brandy – is inspired by Jose Padilla’s classic Cafe de Mar tapes and sets, how do you do what Jose did, and – from the hundreds of titles that are released – spot something with longevity? How do you find the diamonds in the rough, and champion the tunes that will prove timeless? Memories in the making. Rather than just run-of-the-mill “chillout” by numbers?
My two sensei in these sonics have, over the years, each evolved a quite separate approach. Moonboots moved more toward the classical, soundtracks and new age – as he sometimes self-deprecatingly puts it, “Music to do your ironing to.” While Phil Mison’s selections nearly always have a definite groove. Both pick pieces that simultaneously segue seamlessly, and totally shine as individual tracks. All killer no filler.
If I’m honest these thoughts had already kicked in as we hit 2020 and turned a new decade. After 10 years, on two different blogs / websites, “looking for the balearic beat”, I asked, did we find it? I was wondering if instead we`d helped to create something else. Pressures of the pandemic meant that we all had way more important shit to worry about, and ban ban ton ton, me and the gang – Adam, Cal, Mike, and The Insider – all cranked the review handle – hoping to provide some assistance to musical mates who, due to the lockdowns, were in dire need of revenue. But people are out and about again now – and in the west have been for ages (you don’t even wear masks!). Tons of big international festivals are happening, so December really felt like time to stop and try to take stock. This has been at the back of my mind for more than a minute, before stream-of-consciousness-like typing, rattling, this rant out on a Sunday morning at 6 O’clock.
I only did a few Chocolate Milk & Brandy posts / mixes last year, and here, in hindsight, is perhaps why. I was applying a super hard filter, so that only a few things made it through. Often not enough for a monthly mix, so you `d instead find 2 or 3 mellow missives tacked onto the beginning, or end, of a more dance-floor-orientated Balearic beat batch of reviews. Fine examples of this would be Calm’s Before, and Hugh Mane’s Resonant Moods. Both released right at the start of the year, when not much else was about.
I also got confused. How much of a groove can you have at sunset? Brilliant Brazilian, and Brazilian-flavoured, bits from Brunno, Chira Civella, Coastlines, DjeuhDjoah & Lieutenant Nicholson, Joyce’s fabulous 11-and-a-half minute frolic through Feminina, African stuff like AB Crentsil’s Obi Baa Wiase, or Stimela’s I Hate Telling A Lie, are these cocktail accompaniments or early doors Balearic beats? Is there a difference? Do you see my dilemma?
Lady Blackbird summoning the spirit of Nina Simone is a no-brainer, but what about reggae releases like Russ “Disciples” Bell Brown`s dubwise Experiments, or Chronixx’s cracking Never Give Up?
I really need to establish some kind of hotline, or get Phil to design a “thumbs up” App. Two tunes, however, did sorta get Mr. Mison’s seal of approval. Jazz N Palms’ Milano was a cover of a tune ID`d from an old mixtape of his, while he publicly praised – alongside the Is It Balearic? Boys – the Jaki Whitren-channelling If Life Could Be This Way by Crazy P.
Similarly when is something “ambient” too experimental to have found a place in Jose’s box? When is it “deep listening” as opposed to “chill out”? Where’s Moon when you need him?
Yeah I know I’m over thinking it, and I’m probably talking to myself.* But it’s peak winter here – minus 20 outside, a soaring plus 7 by the fan heater as I type, wearing longjohns, hat, and overcoat. The New Year’s resolution, come the spring, is not to get out more, but simply get out.
Apart from those mentioned above, these are all cool records that I think you should give a second listen while you plan, plot, for summer, beaches, sunshine, and clear azure skies.
John Beltran / Mallorca
I played and played this one. Whenever the opening chords kick in on an old mix while I’m driving the car, I`ll initially think, “Oh no, not John again”, but will straight away be silenced by the perfect production.
California is the standout. The spoken word sample makes it an incredibly poignant piece.
Jacob Gurevitsch / Yellow Spaceship
The whole LP. Breathe recalls the melancholy pop that Jose and Phil used to play – such as the live take of Thomas Lang’s Happy Man, or Smithereens` In A Lonely Place – but Gamla Stan is a current favourite. Honestly, everything on here has its moment.
Mirage / Dusk
Trance, not even downtempo – I think it runs at around 122 BPM – but beatless. This really reminds me of the music that Jose commissioned from friends, like Underworld and Morgan “Obiman” King, for that first, landmark, Cafe del Mar comp on React.
Cal super reviewed this debut album, from Leeds-based bandleader / saxophonist, Jasmine Myra. Released on Gondwana – a label which goes from strength to strength, now diversifying from its spiritual jazz roots into areas new and electronic. Words Left Unspoken is wonderful.
Without a doubt, one of my reissues of the year. Mike gave it a glowing write up, and at home its been one of my top spins. Arthur Jeffes revisiting some of his father Simon’s mercurial, magical work. I’m a total sucker for the joyful cuatro and ukulele-driven re-imaginings.
Tomás De Perrate / Tres golpes
Possibly a bit too raw to fit easily into a “modern” sunset set, but if you’re looking for flamenco then this fella’s the real deal.
Ziad Rahbani / هدوء نسبي = Houdou Nisbi
Lebanese jazz-fusion that, to my ears, swings into classic Pat Metheny / ECM territory. I could list a whole load of Cafe del Mar classics that it sits / fits right alongside.
Troels Hammer / An Introduction
Combining modern classical with the odd “chillout” trope, while applying cinematic strokes, this Troels Hammer collection / retrospective deserves to serve as a staple in any sunset soundtracker’s box.
Tungusku / Direction Of Travel
This album taps into that very popular Khruangbin virtuoso guitar-led instrumental thing, so has some serious competition in as far as trying to get heard is concerned, but Reverie hit me, instantly, as truly beautiful, and repeated plays of the LP really pay off.
Zenmenn / Topaz 2
From their 2022 45. When I DJed at an all-day art festival last autumn all 3 DJs span the A-side, Bella Fantasia – the one that slips / segues into Wham!’s Last Christmas. However, it’s the more melancholy jazz croon of the flip, for me, that will stand the test of time.
Feedback greatly welcomed.
*The eternal question, as in “Am I?”, and a nod to the classic Electribe 101 track, the website / blog was nearly named this, before brainstorming with Ken Hidaka came up with Ban Ban Ton Ton.
Jasmine Myra – Words Left Unspoken
Jacob Gurevitsch – Gamla Stan
Ziad Rahbani – Khalas
Troels Hammer – Memorial Mountains
John Beltran – Mallorca
Hugh Mane – Music For A Non-Existent
Ziad Rahbani – Houdou Nisbi
Zenmenn – Topaz 2
Matthieu Beck – California
Tungusku – Reverie
Hugh Mane – Resonant Moods
Mirage – Dusk
Penguin Cafe – Landau
Ziad Rahbani – Nafs Al Sheghlat
Ambient7 – Epilogue
Part 2: Too Groovy?
Perrate – Boa Dona
Brunno – Spleen
AB Crentsil’s Ahenfo Band – Obi Baa Wiase
DjeuhDjoah & Lieutenant Nicholson – Caipirinha
Joyce Moreno – Feminina
Jazz N Palms – Milano
Stimela – I Hate Telling A Lie
The Disciples – Fire Night
Tungusku – Skywriting
Coastlines – Jasmin’s Theme
Crazy P – If Life Could Be This Way
7 thoughts on “2022 / A Few Favourites / Chocolate Milk & Brandy”
Am I overthinking it? Am I talking to myself? Well no, but yeah.
You made me laugh but I know exactly the kinda dilemmas that lead to mixer’s block. For me, it’s why the hell would anyone listen to this when there are 1,000,001 new mixes released every day.
Well, of course, every one and everyone is different. So… anyway, finding one’s groove can be painful. But I think you pulled it off again, Rob .
Steve, thank you!
Great post Rob. Will listen to the mix this week. And am making a mental note to start drinking chocolate milk and brandy at some point this year
Thanks mate! I needed to get this out of my system before moving on. Go easy on the chocolate milk and brandy – last time I had one I threw up outside Pacha (to be honest the chocolate milk might have not been to blame : ) and there’s the famous story of Mr Weatherall doing the same – all over Kevin Sampson : )
Like a turbo charged White Russian, yeah? I think I’ll stick to the white Russians. If it’s good enough for the big lebowski…
I`m actually more of a Moscow Mule man, but I love The Big Lebowski.
I remember your Pacha story from a previous post. I’m sure there’s a limit to the amount of chocolate milk I could physically drink tbh.