Super selections & Wonderful words by Balearic Mike.
I just picked up this fabulous reissue of something that I’ve wanted for years…
Isabelle Antena – En Cavale – Numero Group 2023
Yes, I know! I can’t quite believe that I didn’t already own an original of this album either. I bizarrely passed up on a copy around the time that I left Vinyl Exchange (for the first time) – I guess I had lots of other records to buy before my staff discount disappeared! It’s a decision I have regretted ever since, in no small part because I never came across another one in the wild, and have slowly watched the price of shipping for one of the many European based copies on Discogs rise, and discourage me from taking the plunge.
However, I feel slightly less bad about that decision now, as Numero Group have come up with such a beautiful reissue, changing the cover art, and adding a second disc of extra material, from both the previous Antena phase of Isabelle’s career and the solo bit that coincides with this LP’s original release.
Isabelle Antena, or Powaga to give her non-stage name, was, of course, a founding member and singer with the French / Belgian Balearic-pop pioneers Antena, who’s songs, such as Camino Del Sol, Bye Bye Papaye, Achilles, and To Climb A Cliff, have become widely regarded as both Balearic and Cosmic classics. The band effortlessly fused a combination of jazz, bossa nova, Latin, euro-pop and cold-wave, to create music very much a part of, but also way ahead of, its time.
As a result of the buzz around some of those early Antena records, their Belgian label, Les Disques Des Crepuscule, struck a deal with Island Records to release an Antena single and were looking for a professional producer to help take the band’s sound to the next level. They flew out Martin Hayles, who had just produced Orange Juice’s Rip It Up, to meet the band, starting a relationship that would produce some wonderful music over the coming years.
Isabelle moved to London at around this time, and Antena were beginning to fracture. A handful of wonderful singles, such as Be Pop and Seaside Weekend, were recorded and released as Antena, but now recording with Martin, a new level of ambition and professionalism entered the recording process, and Isabelle signed a deal with Phonogram, shaping the sessions towards a solo album.
Martin helped to put together a group of musicians with the talent and ability to create the music that Isabelle and he imagined. This comprised of Tommy Eyre (Joe Cocker, Wham!, later became George Michael’s musical director), Camelle Hinds (Central Line, The Style Council), Trevor Murrell (George Michael, Sade), and Daniel Cummings (George Michael). The sessions would take place throughout 1983 and 1984, due in no small part to the musician’s other commitments.
The album includes a beautiful cover version of Sister Sledge’s Easy Street, written by the Chic duo of Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, which was released as a single. While recording the vocals in Trevor Horn’s Sarm West studio in Notting Hill, Duran Duran walked in, looking for a place to record, bringing Nile Rodgers with them. Apparently, Isabelle ran past the Durans and straight up to Nile, declaring “You’re my hero!”
The sessions were wrapped up at the end of 1984, with recording costs estimated to be around £200,000, a huge amount for the time – which meant it came as even more of a shock to Isabelle and Martin when Phonogram declared that they were shelving the album! Isabelle was understandably distraught, and absconded with the masters back to Belgium, where she handed the tapes over to Michel Duval at Les Disques Des Crepuscule, hence the album’s title, En Cavale, translating as “on the run”. Thankfully Phonogram never asked for the debt to be paid, or for Isabelle’s advance to be returned, and the LP was finally released by Crepuscule throughout Europe and Japan in 1986.
And thank fuck for that, because it’s a wonderful, idiosyncratic, breezy, jazzy, Euro-pop masterpiece. It expands on the love of Latin, jazz, bossa-nova, and electronic / synth-pop that were such major influences on the Antena material, and adds a shimmering layer of glossy, luxurious, sophistication to the mix. It sits beautifully alongside records like the debut Everything But The Girl album, Eden, and records by Sade, The Style Council, and Working Week. It is in short, a total classic, and still sounds wonderful today. Although Isabelle never enjoyed huge commercial success in Europe, she was massively popular in Japan, cultivating a large fanbase and enjoying lengthy commercial success there.
Numero Group have done a fabulous job of this reissue. Not only does the original album sound great, but we get a bonus LP of 12” mixes, B-sides, and demo versions. The M&M (Jon Morales & Sergio Munzibai) ‘New Dance Mix’ of Life Is Too Short, 12” mix of Be Pop, and demo versions of Achilles being particular highlights. All this on lovely ‘seaside silver’ vinyl.
The same level of care has been shown to the packaging, with a glorious tip-on gatefold sleeve, using a stunning photo of Isabelle instead of the original album sleeve art. That original art has been reused instead as the inner sleeve for record 1, while the sleeve for Be Pop houses record 2. The gatefold also holds a 3-page booklet with a great essay on the record by Erin Osmon, as well as more lovely photos and record sleeves. This is a great release, worth getting even if you have an original.
Italians do it better #? … I can’t remember…
Casco – Cybernetic Love – House Of Music 1983
Danilo Braca – Cyberlover – House Of Music 2020
In keeping with my tradition, as a proud Scot, of posting a wonderful Italian record every time Italy come up against England in a football match, I’m sharing a particularly barn-storming slice of Italo-disco this time, in the form of the absolute classic from Casco, a.k.a. DJ / producer, Salvatore Cusato. This total smash was produced by Stefano Zito (of B.W.H. fame) and Carlo Favilli, and written and arranged by the De Scalzi Brothers. It’s simply one of the greatest Italo-disco records ever released. Every aspect is perfect. Killer bassline, wonderful synth riffs and melody, haunting string sounds, tight drums, and funky hand-claps, topped off with a great vocal, some of which goes through a vocoder. What’s not to love! I can’t quite believe that it’s 40 years old. Apparently released in April 1983, it still sounds totally contemporary!
I probably first heard this on Ferenc’s Cybernetic Broadcasting System (very likely named after this record) in the early 2000s, although it was also included in his fabulous “I-F – Mixed Up In The Hague Volume 2” CD. As well as my lovely original 1983 Italian pressing, which cost me a fair bit, even 20 odd years ago, I’ve also included here a really rather excellent reissue that came out during the first COVID lockdown in 2020. As well as a nice clean pressing of the original vocal and instrumental mixes on the A-side, I really bought it for what’s on the flip. Turn it over and contemporary Italian producer Danilo Braca has remixed / remade the track as Cyberlover, a fabulous new version which slows the track down from its original 120 BPM to around 108/9 BPM and adds a sumptuous layer of strings, courtesy of Layer Bows, a duo comprised of Mario Gentili and Giuseppe Tortora. The effect is truly wonderful. If you don’t have this record, rectify that immediately. The new version – and originals – are all on Bandcamp digitally, so there’s really no excuse!
Forza Italia! (and maybe cheer up Antonio Conte a wee bit).
I noticed today that this complete masterpiece of a record has just been reissued…
T.W. Funkmasters / Bo Kool – Love Money / (Money) No Love – Tania Music / Champagne Records 1980/1981
This is a UK record that had a massive impact on the New York club scene, and the sound of dance music and production for decades to come. The brainchild of BBC Radio London reggae presenter Tony Williams, Love Money was a strange mutant hybrid track, fusing elements from reggae, and dub in particular, with the sounds of the contemporary UK club scene, like jazz-funk, disco, rap, and funk. The original Tania release even featured a rap on the A-side from Bo Kool a.k.a. Oral Robinson.
This strange record then found its way to New York and David Mancuso, who made it an anthem at The Loft. Its popularity soon spread amongst the city’s DJs, and it became an NYC club classic. A status that was only cemented further the following year when it appeared again in remixed form on the Champagne Records Re-Mixture – The Best Of UK Jazz-Funk 12″ E.P. (which also featured Powerline’s Double Journey, another NYC favourite). This almost ‘dub’ remix for me is the definitive version, and it had a huge impact on Francois Kevorkian, who used it as the ‘jumping off point’ for a series of remixes that he would undertake for Prelude Records, most notably “D” Train’s You’re The One For Me. Following Love Money’s huge success, dub mixes and the dub influence on club music soon became standard.
In 1997 a compilation, called Jumpin’, would re-introduce the track to a new clubbing generation, one raised on house music, and this is when I first heard the track, stunned that this record, that was more than 15 years old, sounded so contemporary. With that prominent driving bassline and those rolling piano riffs, the track has had an unmistakable influence on house.
I have both versions, cos’ it’s just THAT good! If you don’t already have on, go buy a copy, NOW!
One of the greatest techno records ever made turns 30 this year…
Galaxy 2 Galaxy – Underground Resistance 1993
This is a simply perfect record from ‘Mad’ Mike Banks. All 8 tracks, spread over 2×12”s are completely sublime, but a couple of them are up there with the finest music ever to fall under the banner of Detroit techno.
Opener Hi-Tech Jazz is, of course, the crowning jewel of the E.P., and you could easily be forgiven for never getting past this to the rest. It sounds like the kind of music Miles Davis or Donald Byrd would have made if someone had taken away their instruments and locked them in a room with a load of small machines from Japan. Swirling sax riffs, soaring strings, gurgling 303 squelches, and the tightest drums you could program. It does exactly what it says on the tin.
On the flip we get Journey Of The Dragons, a classic piece of Detroit electro-funk, and it’s no surprise to see that Juan Atkins is twiddling some knobs on this, as it recalls classic early Cybotron and Model 500 releases. This is followed by Star Sailing, another lovely bit of future jazz.
Side C kicks off with one of the most Balearic techno tracks ever made, Astral Apache (Star Stories). It sounds like the intro to The Cult’s She Sells Sanctuary but remixed by Drexciya. An unbelievable track. Next up, Deep Space 9 (A Brother Runs This Ship), is another killer slab of Drexciya-like electro-funk, mixed by The Martian (of Red Planet fame).
The E.P. closes with Rhythm Of Infinity, a proper Ethno-Balearic chugger of a chune, if you play it at 33rpm like the rest of the record (Discogs reckons it should be 45rpm, but it’s just bangin’ at 45), and Metamorphosis, some fine twittering ambient space noise.
I lose count of the number of amazing times I’ve had either dancing or DJing with this record. It’s fair to say that many of those nights dancing were the result of either James Holroyd or Rob Bright at Bugged Out in Sankey’s.
Music to change your life!
(Journey Of The Dragons was a Phil Mison favourite, Andrew Weatherall used to absolutely hammer Astral Apache at Sabresonic – Rob)
Listening to the Isabelle Antena record reminded me of this record on the same great Belgian label…
Lavvi Ebbel – ¿Telepatia? ¡Telepatia! – Les Disques Du Crepuscule 1983
…and what a fabulous label Les Disques Du Crepuscule was / is. It’s always worth taking a plunge on anything you see on the label. They have loads of interesting releases, including this belter! Thanks go out to Jason Boardman, of Aficionado / Before I Die Projects Ltd., for re-discovering this incredible track. Although Lavvi Ebbel were a Belgian punk-funk / new wave band from Aalst, this actually sounds like a combination of Y-Records outfit Pig Bag, New York City disco-not-disco ensemble KONK, and seems like it was destined to become some lost Balearic classic, as all the lyrics are sung in Spanish!
It’s a killer combination of throbbing funk bassline, insistent percussion and cowbells, slinky guitar, and huge, brassy riffs. It is in short total dancefloor gold, so it may surprise / please you to find that it’s also as cheap as chips, with copies starting at around the €2 mark! No accounting for taste, eh?
It’s also possible to tell you with some accuracy, that this record is almost 40 years old, as it quite handily states in the sleeve that it was released in May 1983. We should send it a card or something.
Praise be for bargain bin Balearic beats!
(Max Essa made this one a Lone Star / Bonobo staple – Rob)
For more from Balearic Mike you can find him on both Facebook and Instagram – @balearicmike.
Mike has a Mixcloud page packed with magnificent, magical, music, and you can catch him live on 1BTN, from 12 noon until 2 (UK time) every 1st and 3rd Friday.
You can also check out the super silk screen prints of “Balearic Wife” over at @jo_lambert_print