Monday, July 21, 2014

Persona | Balearic | Exclusive Mark Barrott Interview

Finding the Feeling

International Feel's Mark Barrott is driven by many personal philosophies. But when it comes to Balearic, anything goes.

by Joshua P. Ferguson

If you take a survey of people involved in, close to, or inspired by Balearic music from its humble beginnings in the '80s to its rich, modern interpretations, you'll find yourself swimming in descriptions of sounds that cross styles, borders and decades. You’ll also find two things that remain consistent. One: Balearic music lives by one rule, and that's Anything Goes. Two: the sound was born in Ibiza, a Spanish Island paradise that remains its spiritual home to this day. Producer Mark Barrott has long felt the calling of the White Isle, as Ibiza's also known, and talking to him at length about the tropical destination and musical mecca, it’s undeniably his spiritual home too. 

A self-described contrarian and the owner of the respected and expertly curated International Feel imprint, Barrott shares the Balearic scene’s rebellious nature. As a musician and label head, he also likes the space it gives artists to express themselves, a space he passes on to the artists that he signs. Catching up with Barrott over Skype from Ibiza, his home of the past two years, to learn more about his music, his label, and his thoughts on Balearicism, we found that while anything does go, there are also a lot of personal philosophies behind the man who’s become a sort of modern spokesman for Ibiza’s original music scene.

“It’s very much about personal freedom 
and doing your own thing.” 

The mentality of the Balearic scene has a way of hooking people. Its roots sprang from an exotic tropical island, and the scene that built up around it is storied as much for its wild eclecticism as it is for just being wild. At the same time, it’s super chill—especially by today’s standards. It’s music for sunsets and sunrises, sand and surf, for cold drinks and hot days. And, as Barrott explains it, it’s the context that ties it all together. 

“A proper Balearic DJ can play a Front 242 record next to a house record next to a Wally Badarou record next to an ambient track next to a classical track next to a Ghanaian polyrhythmic track next to a techno track,” he says. “It all makes sense because of the context of the setting or the scene or the audience.” As an artist with wildly varied output, Barrott has always found this very enticing. 

Outspoken with a mild British accent and youthful look about him, Barrott’s earliest releases were as Future Loop Foundation, a live drum & bass act that also pulled in heavy doses of ambient and chill out. More recently, the 46-year-old can be heard traversing tropical funk, breezy house, and lounge grooves, and doing so under a dozen or so different guises, including Rocha, Flights of Fancy, Boys from Patagonia, and the latest, The Young Gentleman’s Adventure Society. With this many voices, Barrott’s attraction to Balearicism is understandable, inevitable even. All the more so when you consider how much his long-running body of work skews towards chill out. Chill out and Balearic have always gone hand in hand as far as Barrott’s concerned, a fact he credits to legendary Ibiza DJ and famed Café Del Mar resident, José Padilla

“Chill out music, or Balearic chill out music, didn’t exist before José Padilla, and what José Padilla did was contextualize this music,” Barrott says, returning to his point about context. “[Padilla] took bits of world music, Indian classical music, and put it next to European synth music like Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze and weird other bits like Penguin Café Orchestra.” 

Padilla’s style of selection flies in the face today’s standard of deejaying. Wildly inventive, he places songs side-by-side that would never otherwise go together. And it works. Couple that with Padilla’s preferred setting: seaside with a setting sun, and you’ve pretty much defined chill out, which is exactly what the Balearic originator did. In the process, Padilla also helped establish Balearic music’s reputation for deviating from the norm—something that, in Barrott’s eyes, the world could use more of. 

 “International Feel is this bastion against 
the falsehood of modern society.” 

Barrott describes the genesis moment for International Feel in terms as picturesque as the one that birthed the original Balearic scene. Shortly after moving to Punta Del Este, Uruguay where he lived from 2009 until his move to Ibiza, Barrott was cruising the Atlantic coast taking in the scenery and listening to Quiet Village’s Silent Movie while he waited for his shipping container to show up. 

That’s also the idyllic version of the story. The label’s start was equally a product of the difficulty he had getting “Hands of Love,” his first release as Rocha, signed. The song became International Feel’s debut record—a 180-gram vinyl 12” with vintage map inspired artwork—and set the pace for the label’s track record of putting out small batch, collector-worthy releases that stand in opposition to over compressed, disposable digital music. 

“There are two or three things that I’m very strong on that people are missing that modern society isn’t providing,” Barrott explains, the first of a number of astute—if colorful—insights he shared. “One of them is nuance, the second is subtlety, and the third one is a sense. There’s a very important sense that I think people are missing and that’s tactility, the importance of real things.” If he was going to take the plunge and do his own label, it would be done on his terms and that meant applying personal life philosophies from his strong work ethic to his creativity, passion, and drive to continually improve. Bespoke is the word that he settles on most often. 

All of these qualities are embodied in his debut LP for the label, Sketches from an Island. Released last month, it is a lasting statement both inside and out, with gorgeous cover art that recall bird paintings from the Audubon Society and an expansive palette of sounds that draw from Padilla’s earliest days selling cassette mixtapes in Ibiza’s Es Canare and Las Dalias outdoor markets. 

Like those early tapes, Sketches is a survey of sounds both retro and modern, from the new wave jungle adventure soundtrack “Dr. Nimm’s Garden of Intrigue & Delight” with its chirping field recordings and synth arpeggios to the sprawling tropical meditation “Formentera Headspace Blues Pt. 1 & 2” with its Hawaiian slide guitar, plucked thumb piano, and near-buried trip-hop rhythm. 

“I really wanted to go back to that period and look at the pre-dawn of Balearic chill out and investigate those musical forms and give them context in a modern world,” Barrott says. “When everyone is making banging music and chill out is soundtracking hemorrhoid cream adverts, I wanted to go back before it became a genre and look at the disparate musical forms that Padilla provided context to, and really provide an album that had depth, and stood up to repeat listening. 

“That’s really what we’re about as a label, keeping high quality and high standards,” he continues. “People do want real things and melody and music, and we’ve tapped into that.” 

“People, in general, have been drip-fed just 
enough happiness to keep them asleep.” 

For Barrott, there’s a strong undercurrent that flows beneath an otherwise peaceful music that pulls us to a more pure way of living. When he talks about the part his label has played in being the antithesis to the homogenized, neon glowing EDM scene, his sense of pride is undeniable. 

“At the start of dance music you had Guy Called Gerald making bizarre machine music, bastardizing the machines to do things they weren’t meant to do in a rat-infested squat in Manchester,” he says. “Now you have Avicii and Swedish House Mafia. [We’ve] resonated with a lot of people and long may that continue because the more pockets of guerilla resistance we have, we can create a cumulative force and the digitized 0 and 1 ringtones without melody, feeling, or soul that people think they need because they’ve been marketed that way will start to fall away.” 

It’s this passion for substance and history that have helped International Feel sign some of underground dance music’s most respected names, artists like DJ Harvey—and his Locussolus project—and, as of this summer, Padilla himself. “Life is timing and synchronicity. It was just very good timing with José,” Barrott says. “You sometimes think with Padilla or Harvey, or these older guys, how relevant are they now? These guys have so much more to offer than some punk Scandinavian kid making corporate brand music and making Christ poses when he deejays. That’s not music, that’s just celebrity. When you’re speaking to someone like José Padilla, you’re getting 40 years of DJ experience. You can’t buy that.” 

Judging by the success of International Feel’s catalog and the buzz around Barrott’s record—including a glowing review from respected online outlet Resident Advisor—it’s clear that there are a lot of people out there that can, and will, buy that. And while Balearic’s ‘anything goes’ appeal and balmy vibe may be what initially draw us in, it’s the craft and the care that keep us coming back around to hear where Barrott, International Feel, and even the artists that inspire him go next.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Persona | Balearic | Essential Listening

Balearic | Essential Listening

Our Balearic Exploration Continues with DJs and Mixes 
That Help Define the Sunset Sound

by Joshua P. Ferguson

Much has gone into our feature series on the Balearic scene in Ibiza, but digging through all the great vintage recordings and contemporary mixes that pick up where these recordings leave off has been the most rewarding part. It's also helped us discover a few new Balearic voices along the way. This post collects our favorite listening experiences from the past few weeks and casts a wide net around what Balearic can sound like. It's a little different for everybody, but there's a universal and inescapable vibe to each one.

José Padilla Cafe Del Mar #3 — Test Pressing
For us, we have to start where it all started in our eyes: José Padilla, Café Del Mar veteran and spiritual leader of what became the chill-out sound. There a lot of recordings of his early sets, both at the club in the early '90s and prior to, when he was selling his mixes on cassette from the local market in Ibiza. This one is both characteristic of those early tapes and endlessly listenable, full of obscure soulful sounds, Spanish jazz-folk nuggets, and an obligatory cut from the Bladerunner OST.

Chris Coco Café Del Mar Before Sunset
These past few weeks we have become addicted to British DJ and chill-out spokesman Chris Coco's weekly radio show, Melodica. We've also become quite taken with an LP he's just released alongside Steel and Lovebomb appropriately titled The Chillout AlbumHe showcased it heavily on a recent show, but due to licensing issues in the U.S. we can't stream it for you here. Resorting to a close favorite mix of his, live from the original DJ booth of Café Del Mar earlier this year, it's a worthy substitute (and for those of you outside the States, well, bonus).

DJ Alfredo Live at Amensia Ibiza 1989
At the same time José Padilla was giving birth to Balearic chill-out, DJ Alfredo represented another side of the Ibizan underground—a more lively but just as eclectic mix of sounds that would eventually become known as Balearic Beat. This mix was recorded toward the end of his six-year residency at another of Ibiza's famed early underground clubs, Amnesia. Moving from early jacking sounds to hip-house to R&B, boogie, new wave, and back, it's a lively mix  in a the style that would inspire some of DJ culture's biggest names—including Pete Tong and Paul Oakenfold—and in some ways a telling precursor to the Ibiza we know today.

Pete Gooding Live at Cafe Mambo 2013 #3
Speaking of Amnesia, it's where longtime Ibizan DJ staple and British ex-pat Pete Gooding fell in love with the island and its musical heritage as a crafty teen sneaking himself into the club. Representing a middle ground between breezy grooves and Ibiza's housier side, Gooding has made a name for himself as a tireless champion of the island's scene, producing, hosting a radio show, managing artists (like José Padilla), and holding down the DJ booth at Mambo for nearly two decades. This mix is a sun kissed send off from Gooding, mixing classic downtempo sounds with soul-drenched house, mid tempo ambiance, and the out-of-left-field oddities that help keep the Balearic sound so wonderfully nebulous.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Persona | Balearic | Jose Padilla Interview

Exclusive Interview | José Padilla

Café Del Mar Legend and Chill Out Godfather 
Talks Balearic Past, Present and Future

by Joshua P. Ferguson

You can't talk about Balearic music without talking about José Padilla. The iconic Spanish DJ got his start when the country lived under Franco's rule, driving a then-young Padilla to dig deep for musical inspiration that came to encompass Spanish folk music, jazz, American soul and the odd soundtrack or two. Moving to Ibiza, the Spanish Isle now famous as an international clubbing destination, in 1975 when it was still a quiet tropical paradise, Padilla slowly built the foundation of what would become Balearic music.

It began with Padilla selling tapes of his DJ mixes in the local island market. Their popularity went viral in a way  seldom seen in the '80s. Establishing himself as one of Ibiza's premiere DJs, his legendary residency at seaside lounge Café Del Mar throughout the '90s became synonymous with what is now widely recognized as chill out—sunset grooves that kiss goodbye to the day and warm you up for the evening ahead. The compilation series that followed Padilla's idyllic sunset sets turned him into an international best seller and sparked a musical movement that can still be heard in hotel lounges and sushi restaurants the world over.

Now, with artists like John Talabot and labels like International Feel writing a new chapter in the Balearic sound, Padilla is back, having recently returned to the DJ booth at Café Del Mar and to the studio with International Feel's Mark Barrott to add his own voice to a renaissance in the iconic Ibizan sound. We reached out to Padilla via e-mail to hear more about the early Balearic days in his own words and find out more about his new single "Solito" and his next artist album due out in 2015. Here is what the chill out icon had to say.

Balearic has come to mean something quite specific as both a music and a lifestyle. As an originator of both, can you describe what Balearic means to you? 
For me it's a way of playing music. It's the way I always play, all my life: very eclectic, with no boundaries, and it links with a way of life from living here in Ibiza. 

From a musical perspective, how did your style and sound as a DJ originate in the early 70s? 
My roots come from Motown, Trax Records, Philadelphia. Then I discovered Bossa Nova and Jazz. Franco-run Spain banned many tracks like The Rolling Stones, so I had to find my own way, my own sound. 

What part did that political and cultural climate in Spain at the time play in your early days playing records? 
There was a scene of very small clubs—it was like we were hiding—and illegal parties like Oro Negro and La Ratenora, where they played music that had been banned, in some ways it was similar to the rave scene in the '80s in the U.K. 

How did that carry through to the tapes you were selling after you relocated to Ibiza and eventually at Café Del Mar? 
I got more educated and evolved over time and I found Brain Eno, Tangerine Dream, Neu, Pink Floyd, Genesis, King Crimson, then Bossa Nova and Jazz. 

What other inspiration helped you cultivate your now-iconic chill-out style?
The main one is the King Ra (The Sun), I play beautiful, emotional music for the sunset. 

You recently brought that iconic sound back to Café Del Mar after 15 years away. What was it like returning to the DJ booth there? 
Well, it was very emotional. I was nervous but it was amazing and I felt so much love from the people. 

You’re also active in the studio, working on a new record for International Feel. Can you tell us more about the sound you’re crafting for the record?
For me it's a very important album. It's a great label as well and I’m a big fan so it will be a very eclectic album, almost like a DJ set, a mix of organic and electronic. I know no other way. My first track ‘Solito' is what people may call ambient or Balearic. 

What are your inspirations and aims this time around? 
My aim is to make music people of all ages can enjoy with the highest quality production so it has longevity. I’m not interested in making music that lasts only one month. It needs to be for a lifetime. 

What’s it been like connecting and working with Mark Barrott on launching this new phase in your career?
It's been great. it’s like we were working together all our lives, very sooth following and we understand each other. 

For those who might only be familiar with Ibiza as the clubbing destination it is today, can you describe the scene during it’s early hey day?
Well, back in the day you had to play all night, play all styles of music. Things changed of course over time. There were no computers, life was more relaxed. Everything is busy and hectic now and there was not the big VIP scene in the old days. 

As someone who’s lived there for almost 40 years, do you feel you can still find that old school Balearic spirit there? 
As long as I’m alive I'll be trying to keep it going so yes! 

Speaking with Mark recently, we discussed how there does seem to be a building renaissance in the music at least. How does it feel seeing that the peaceful sound and spirit you helped created is becoming popular again?
Yes, because there has been a new wave of great producers over the last few years like Psychemagik, Todd Terje, Lindstrom and labels like International Feel, Tusk Wax, Philomena and Bird Scarer Records. So there does seem to be a lot of great things happening right now.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Persona | Balearic | The New Sound of the White Isle

Rediscovering Balearic

A New Chapter in the Sound of the White Isle Continues

by Joshua P. Ferguson

Rain drops, sea gulls, waves of ambient synths, strings for days, Spanish guitar, saxophones, orchestral piano, acid bass lines, lazy house, disco, lounge, chill out… Somehow it's all Balearic and that's so much of its charm. And yet, as Beatport announced yet another season in the White Isle of Ibiza today, most of these sounds are nowhere to be found amongst the collection of mp3s the DJ download portal is pushing on the masses. Dig back far enough though, seek out the right artists, the right labels, and even the right corners of the Internet, and you can find what we like to think of as the true Balearic sound.

What is Balearic though? It's a question we'll be weighing in on over the balmy summer weeks throughout July in a series of posts dedicated to Balearic music, its history, and the people behind it. For me personally, a Balearic approach to music has followed me my whole life, before I was even aware of the term of the island scene that spawned it. 

A childhood spent in Hawaii and California predisposed me to a tropical lifestyle that led directly to a preference for music that moves in island time. When I got my first record player in high school, used Bob Marley and the kitschy lounge of Henry Mancini were the first artists to waft out from that Frankensteined hi-fi in my parent's basement. My freshman year in college brought with it Kruder & Dorfmeister and whatever other worldly chill-out I could get my hands on. When I finally took up deejaying, I was consistently relegated to the early slots because all the other DJs I knew couldn't wrap their heads around why my music was so mellow or why I could never give a straight answer to the question of what style of music I played.

Eventually I suppose I gained some vague notion of Ibiza as a clubbing mecca, but I was too busy following threads through Brazilian, Latin, African, and Spanish rhythms and butting them up with the contemporary world beat of labels like Schema, Tru Thoughts, and Far Out to care. Friendships with the guys behind Candela Records brought me on multiple trips to Old San Juan where I peddled my deep, global style across more than a few bars there. And today, my love of ambient soundscapes, cosmic house, and trippy disco have only added to a palette that I'm coming to realize shares a lot with what Ibiza originators like famed Cafe Del Mar resident Jose Padilla and DJ Alfredo were doing as they inadvertently set the mold for the Balearic sound.

Thanks to this discovery, we've spent the last month on an exhaustive tour of all things Balearic, from the vintage Padilla mix tapes collected at to the catalog of the International Feel label to the radio shows of modern Balearic selectors like Chris Coco and Pete Gooding. Mixed with our ongoing love affair with artists and labels regularly featured here—John Talabot, Prins Thomas, Todd Terje, Woolfy… Permanent Vacation, Eskimo… —and we've found ourselves in a cozy musical pocket we may never crawl out of. 

So where was I? Our definition of Balearic music. Well, it's heavily informed by people more knowledgable than us. From the interviews we've conducted—which will share with you in the coming weeks—and the homework we've done, few things are concrete but two thing are: It's a deeply personal musical selection that befits a setting, one that typically involves the sea, condensation on cocktail glasses, and a sunset to beat all sunsets. It just so happens I can't think of a better way to describe the music I enjoy most.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Allure | Dust and Grooves

The Allure | Dust & Grooves

New Book Shares the Dedication and Joy of Vinyl Addicts.

by Joshua P. Ferguson

It's a passion that I personally have had to take great care to explain to the uninitiated—and to my girlfriend whenever we move. Record collecting is a fever shared by a select few selectors across the globe, one that proves itself a joy to look at, listen to, and read about. At least it is for Eilon Paz, a photographer who has dedicated the past 5 years to seeking out and photographing some of the globe's most impressive record collections, and the people who have amassed them. He's been compiling the results of this exploration on his website,, and more recently as a gorgeous coffee-table tome subtitled, Advenures in Record Collecting.

Traveling from his home base in New York to L.A., England, Paris, and more far-flung locales like Jerusalem and Istanbul, Paz's features and accompanying photography are a captivating testament to the passion and style that emanate from these dedicated collectors. From country-collecting gals to dusty devotees, each feature dives deep into the minds that drive these die-hard preservationists.

Interviews range from well-known collectors like the BBC's Gilles Peterson and Philly DJ extraordinaire Rich Medina to those whose fame and respect don't extend past those in the know. The latter group actually makes for some of the most interesting fare, as some warm light is shed on the joy they find in having, say, the world's most extensive collection of  blues, bluegrass, and jazz 78s.

Even my modest home collection, put together over years as a DJ and sales manager at a record distribution company inspires wide eyes and raised eyebrows from house guests. Articulating the pride that comes from setting them up for display and rediscovering long-shelved gems on lazy sundays is always a welcome conversation around my apartment, and it's apparent from the conversations captured in Dust & Grooves that I'm not alone. Each is a fascinating glimpse into big personalities—those of both the collectors and their collections—and compiled as wonderfully as they are in Paz's new book, it's a piece that will stand up well alongside all my records.

Dust & Grooves: Adventures in Record Collecting is out now and available wherever fine vinyl records are sold.

LISTEN | Rich Medina Promo Mix for Dust & Grooves

Monday, June 9, 2014

Interview | Different Sleep

Interview | Different Sleep + Abstract Science

by Joshua P. Ferguson

At the end of last month, Chicago by way of San Diego producer Different Sleep, a.k.a. Raf Alvarez, stopped by for an in-studio chat with Abstract Science and to play a short selection of songs that are inspirations for him at the moment. Though Alvarez puts his production style in the downtempo-bass realm, his track selection ran wide. In between cuts, we caught up on air to chat about how he got his start making music and how he hopes to continue the momentum he's gained from the release of his Conflict EP for Friends of Friends, which came out earlier this year. 

Download the full episode of Abstract Science here (and if you like it, subscribe to our podcast):

And here's a transcript of what he played and had to say.

Tell us about your latest EP for Friends of Friends. 
This EP is called Conflict. I made it last summer in a time when I was just in my apartment, living in the city, and kind of in a shell, spending a lot of time working on music. Definitely a more emotional time in my life, definitely some heartfelt songs on this release but I really feel it's some of the most original work that I’ve done in the sense that there’s a lot of original instrumentation—me playing piano, me on guitar, and me incorporating my own vocals for the first time. 

Selection One: Rochelle Jordan "Lowkey" — Prostar Entertainment

Since we're getting into your head a bit musically, tell us how you got into this and started making music. 
I started when I was 12 or 13. I started taking guitar lessons and wanted to record the songs I was coming up with on guitar so I started using basic software and eventually I would just start creating entire compositions using the software. Before I knew it I was leaving my guitar down and just producing. I did it all through high school, making albums and selling them at school. Upon coming to Chicago, I started throwing stuff up on SoundCloud. Some of them started to get picked up by local blogs. One, Flashlight Tag, was one of the first to post up one of my songs. After that it just started to pick up. It’s been a journey, but it’s great because I can make music and post it and get response from people.

Selection Two: Visionist "First Love" — Lit City Trax

The Internet is the great equalizer, and that’s how it should be. It’s either that or American Idol so we know where people should rather go. 
Everyone has their own way of going about making their way in the music world. I’ve just always believed in putting out good music and if you like it, hopefully other people will like it too. It’s been great being in Chicago because I’ve met a lot of people who have influenced me and shown me different types of music. Specifically being exposed to footwork and a lot of hip-hop, it’s really inspired me and pushed my sound in a different direction. 

SELECTION THREE: Kyle Woods and Dre Green "Cold Rain"

On the release front do you have anything in the wings, releases we can look forward to? 
I’m currently working on my first album. There’s no due date on it at the moment, but I’m really excited. It’s the first time I’ve put together a full album.

SELECTION FOUR: Clara La San "Let You Go"

Should we expect more of what we’ve heard on the Conflict EP or are you trying to spread out with that? 
It’s definitely in a similar vein, although at the same time I’m always trying to push myself in new directions. I would say the album might be more dance-music influenced, same as [Doss’ “Extended Mix”] has the jungle breaks, I’ve been working a lot with sounds like that, incorporating rhythms and breaks—but definitely still in that downtempo, electronic sound with R&B influence. That’s my core. I hope people will be able to hear that it’s still me.

SELECTION FIVE: Doss "Extended Mix" — Acephale Records

That’s the balance, you can still tell it’s Different Sleep but be excited that it’s new stuff and not just treading water. 
A lot of people, when they want to take their sound in a new direction they might just start a side project and make music under that. I believe in managing to push your sound but keeping it unique to how you make music. That’s something that I always strive to do with my music.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Video | Dealer

Video | Dealer

Short film draws inspiration and soundtrack from Burial.

by Joshua P. Ferguson

As consummate Burial fans, we've been anxious to get this blog post out of the queue for more than week now. This darkly thrilling short film directed by Ben Dawkins and produced by international creative house The Sweet Shop fully embraces the title track to UK enigma Burial's latest EP, "Rival Dealer," turning it into a visual whirlwind of one fateful night in the life of a low man on the drug-dealing totem pole. 

Racing around a dark and damp London night, the protagonist wrestles with his family, his livelihood, and the pitfalls that accompany each—though some fall further than others. Moving in waves that match the breaks-laden hyperactive peaks and deep ambient valleys of the 11-minute song, the short captures the neediness, the danger, and the rush of an underground lifestyle that is in eerily perfect harmony with the hazy, bare, emotional grit of Burial's music.

Recently, Vice's THUMP arm caught up with the film's director to talk through the synthesis of the two pieces, which you can read here: THUMP | Ben Dawkins interview.

Joshua P. Ferguson

View the film below: