Balearic compilations: summer sounds from EMI's archives
September 6, 2014 2:40 PM   Subscribe

Here's a look back at sounds of summers past, with a review of EMI's series of Balearic compilations, and for a bit more mystery and diversity, mixes that focus and include Balearic styles from Test Pressing. If the whole "Balearic" thing is confusing, Boiler Room TV has a nice write-up with photos from the period to set the mood, where the music was a mix of mixture of soul, reggae, rock, pop, and Latin, mixed with chill out, lounge and dance music.

The Wondering Sound reviews of the EMI compilations open with a good background snapshot, for those unfamiliar with everything that can be classified under Balearic sounds:
Like Krautrock and Northern Soul, Balearic Beat is a genre not recognized by those who created it. And, like the aforementioned musical categories, it was the Brits who bestowed this name on the sound they “discovered.” As the story goes, UK DJs Paul Oakenfold, Danny Rampling and Trevor Fung holidayed in Ibiza, one of Spain’s Balearic Islands, in 1987. Chicago’s thumping house beats were sweeping clubland’s most forward-leaning dancefloors while aggressive, four-to-the-floor house remixes started streamlining and homogenizing records originally recorded as R&B, Latin freestyle and synthpop.

But in Ibiza, dance music was still all over the board: Quirky recent Europop hits, New Wave oldies, early house, offbeat disco, art-rock, jazz-funk, world music, dub reggae, near-ambient cuts — nearly any ’70s/’80s style with a syncopated rhythm that felt good in warm weather and got tourists dancing — were all being played at clubs like Amnesia, which sported an open-air dancefloor that heightened the free-spirited Mediterranean vibe.
From this background, EMI Sweden staffer Jens Peterson Hällefors put together 14 themed compilations in the 2012 Balearic series, including 3 focusing on Scandinavian groups. Jens then picked an hour and a half as the Balearic mix for Secret Life Music. But that's just a selection from the larger collection, so let's dive in, with descriptions from Barry Walters for Wondering Sound.

Balearic Blend is the most eclectic selection from the series, and as such might be the closest thing to capturing the general balmy summer sounds from the late 1980s in Ibeza, before house really hit it big. The tracklist includes: You can also stream the entire compilation on MySpace, and see the tracklist linked up on Discogs.

"Balearic Leftfield focuses on offbeat dance records of the '80s, which is basically what this Balearic series is about. It's where the eccentric and disco-centric circles of UK New Wave (and their European cousins) overlap." The tracklist includes: Stream the compilation on MySpace (*minus two tracks: "She Blinded Me With Science (Extended Mix)" and "Time Lines" ; full tracklist on Discogs)

Balearic Electronic is sounds "most pointedly synthetic. This is synthpop, unabashedly robotic for its time, yet also elegant in its emphatically European, quasi-symphonic alienation," featuring "estranged" and "chilly" '80s dance music like: Stream the compilation on MySpace (tracklist on Discogs)

"Balearic House focuses on the late '80s and '90s to explore how the sound of Ibiza changed after it initially captured the UK imagination," retaining diversity and quirkiness, with divas: There is also plenty of textural, tonal, melodic and harmonic variation that far exceeds the house norm:
  • Norway's Mental Overdrive goes on for 15 minutes in "About Erot (Tore Fra Singapores Usikker Musiker Mix)," but the ever-evolving cut builds like a mini DJ set, encompassing ambient, jazz-funk, Afrobeat, and other flavors along the way,
  • The Land of Oz mix of Frazier Chorus's "Nothing" captures Paul Oakenfold at the early '90s peak of his remixing powers, and
  • Sasha's Qat Mix of Cheeks' "So in Love (The Real Deal)" is similarly shaded with emotional nuance.
Stream the compilation on MySpace (tracklist on Discogs)

"Balearic World combines two distinct takes on world music — native expressions of local styles, and appropriations from outside," as heard in the "sometimes campy, sometimes sincere, but nearly always soothing" tracks:
  • Recorded under his short-lived Jesus Loves You moniker, Boy George's "Bow Down Mister" celebrates the Hare Krishna spirituality that helped the star overcome his heroin addiction; it's wacky, but oddly moving.
  • The Brazilian acts on the other end of the authenticity spectrum, with Quarteto Em Cy (Tudo Que Voce Podia Ser),
  • Os Borges (Em Familia),
  • Evinha (Setembro), and
  • Elza Soares (O Pato)
And that's just the Brazilian side of the 19 track compilation, which you can stream on MySpace, or see listed on Discogs.

"Balearic Reggae is not only of the broadest collections of Jamaican (and quasi-Jamaican) music you'll hear, but also one of the most idiosyncratic. This is probably the only place where roots reggae, dub reggae, reggae-disco, reggae hip-hop, reggae trip-hop, a chart-topping reggae-ska smash and a Culture Club B-side (Murder Rap Trap featuring Captain Crucial) all come together," with "plenty of authentic island sounds," from Others "mix their grooves with angular funk to rump-shaking effect" And don't forget the female teen duo - as their song goes, one-hit-wonders Althea & Donna are "strictly roots," but that didn't stop them from topping the UK pop chart in 1978 with an unpolished gem that unjustly flopped in the US, "Uptown Top Ranking."

Stream the compilation on MySpace (tracklist on Discogs)

"Balearic Pop combines the familiar with the obscure to make the point that great music is great music, no matter who sings it or how it's marketed," with tracks from: Stream 11 of 15 tracks on MySpace (full tracklist on Discogs)

Balearic Rock is much broader than its title or even its lineup would suggest, covering the gamut from glam to punk, post-punk to space rock, New Wave and Neue Deutsche Welle, and even more, including: Stream the compilation on MySpace (tracklist on Discogs)

Balearic Soft Rock isn't what you think it is. "Would someone tell that guitarist in the Little River Band's otherwise lovely opus 'It's a Long Way There' to just knock it off already? But there are mellow cuts from typically more anxious acts," including: Stream 14 of 16 tracks on MySpace (complete tracklist on Discogs)

Balearic Prog is a "brazenly esoteric set wanders furthest into murky areas of the European EMI catalog where the US could not follow," and goes well beyond "the smooth and sunny sounds commonly understood as Balearic" into "unsteady stuff" that is hard to imagine on any dancefloor. But there are unexpected grooves — "dig that savage drum break in Swedish band Storm's crazy "Lt. Calley Bjuder Upp," a sonic blueprint for today's indie freakout favorites Goat." Back into the realms of what you might expect, there's Babe Ruth's "The Mexican," a DJ staple on NYC's disco and hip-hop scenes.

Stream the compilation on MySpace (tracklist on Discogs)

Balearic Ambient is "dance music for the very confident and/or very stoned" ... "low on beats and high on underwater vibes." This isn't stripped down to Brian Eno's Music for Airports level of ambient music, but some selections get close:
  • Japan's brooding and strikingly beautiful "Ghosts" was a No. 5 pop hit in 1982 England,
  • Talk Talk's even more abstract "The Rainbow" signaled the band's 1988 break from its New Wave past,
  • Klaus Schønning's 1982 cut "Cygnus" suggests the smoother side of current Daft Punk, and
  • former the Soundtrack of Our Lives member Björn Olsson supply the Scandinavian connection (Avtagande Verklighet (Fading Reality)).
Stream 8 of the 13 tracks on MySpace (complete tracklist on Discogs)

And perhaps to appease local audiences looking for local artists, EMI Music Sweden also released three compilations of Balearic Scandinavia: the original (Discogs), #2 (Discogs) and #3 (Discogs), but they're not as widely available (or reviewed in English). Samples from digital sales sites: original comp. on Amazon UK, #2 from Qobuz, and #3 on Amazon UK.
posted by filthy light thief (14 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
Also, from the album "Down to the Sea and Back: The Continuing Journey of the Balearic Beat Vol, 1" comes the infectious, disco-infused "I, I, I" from, of all people, The Osmonds!
posted by Quasimike at 3:01 PM on September 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

"Oh great, another post about a musical genre that I will have no connection to because it's too obscure and too trendy."

*reads post*

Whoa! I know a ton of these tracks already. This is a genre, a thing? Like, um....


I guess I have a lot of 'splainin' listening to do!
posted by hippybear at 3:25 PM on September 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Balearic is distinctly not a genre in the sense that most people consider music genres, it's more of a mood, or a style of djing. It's actually about drawing from multiple genres to create a particular feel or emotion.
posted by empath at 3:36 PM on September 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Were there even styles of DJing 30-ish years ago?
posted by hippybear at 3:43 PM on September 6, 2014

Oh good, just in time for the closing parties that I'm missing.

posted by poffin boffin at 3:51 PM on September 6, 2014

Were there even styles of DJing 30-ish years ago?

I thought maybe no as well until I realized that 30 years ago it was the 80s. Think about Hot Mix 5 compared to Phuture.
posted by poffin boffin at 3:56 PM on September 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Could have sworn that back in the day this was referred to as Ibiza club music. When did the Balearic name take hold? Or is Ibiza what evolved out of Oakenfold et Al's exposure to Balearic?
posted by ardgedee at 4:04 PM on September 6, 2014

Were there even styles of DJing 30-ish years ago?

Yes, and earlier. For instance: Sound systems in Jamaica, which had not only stylistic but political differences or the myriad styles that gave birth to hip hop.
posted by jammy at 4:10 PM on September 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh my god I just looked at the photos, Alfredo has flopsy moppet hair.

loltears forever
posted by poffin boffin at 5:00 PM on September 6, 2014

Here's another selection that tries to capture the late 1980s "Balearic" sound, with the key difference being that the list is from DJ Alfredo, "one of the Godfathers of the whole scene" as credited in the Boiler Room article.
  1. Manuel Gottsching / E2-E4 (full hour-long "suite" or album)
  2. Henry Mancini & his orchestra / The Pink Panther theme
  3. Nina Simone / My baby just cares for me [live on Sacrée Soirée, French TV]
  4. Gilberto Gil / Toda Menhina Bahiana
  5. The Thrashing Doves / Jesus on the payroll
  6. Atahualpa 1530 / Andino
  7. George Kranz / Din Daa Daa
  8. Prince / When doves cry [music video]
  9. The Wodentops / Well well well
  10. Joe Smooth / Promised Land
  11. Liaisons dangereuses / Los niños del parque [music video]
  12. Icarus / Stone fox chase
  13. Mike Post Feat. Larry Carlton / Theme From Hill Street Blues
  14. Enzo Avitabile / Black Out
  15. Barry White / It’s ecstasy when you lay down next to me
  16. Ce Ce Rogers / Someday
  17. Kool Moe Dee / Do you know what time is it
  18. West Phillips / Tell me (that you want me)
  19. The house master boyz and the rude boy of house / House nation
  20. The Night writers / Let the music (use you)
  21. Depeche Mode / Just cant get enough (live version) [1988 video]
  22. Tears for Fears / Shout
  23. Soul II Soul / Fairplay
  24. Cyndi Lauper / Time after Time [music video]
  25. Grace Jones / La vie en Rose [music video]
Here's a YouTube playlist from someone else, and a few of the tracks/videos are no longer available.

Courtesy of
posted by filthy light thief at 5:59 PM on September 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Check out jj for a modern balearic sound. I love them, and I love all balearica. And it's a musical genre that I, as a middle aged father finds accessible. Kids hate it.
posted by Keith Talent at 6:06 PM on September 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Another article: In Search of Balearic (DJ

Oh gods yes, jj are wonderful, and they have some really great rap/hip-hop remixes/reworks (example: JJ - Still (Dr Dre ft. Snoop Dogg - Still Dre cover)). Here's a free MP3 from jj and Secretly Canadian, and Sincerely Yours from Sweden has more good jj and other hazy summer sounds. Here's jj on Discogs.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:25 PM on September 6, 2014

This is a genre, a thing? Like, um....

Seconding empath, it's more of a mood than a genre. And as seen by 9 genre-focused compilations (and DJ Alfredo's picks, a mix of his from 1989 and a mix of his from 1993), there's a whole range of sounds that fit into old Balearic sets.

Somehow, Alfredo's idea of "eclectic, happy, sexy, not cheesy" music got simplified into "Breezy, positive, summery, dreamy and Mediterranean," so the Balearic sound become flattened. I dearly love the new dreamy, breezy stuff that is classified as "Balearic," but it's interesting to see how diverse it used to be -- Nina Simone to Depeche Mode, roots reggae to weird prog rock, and the Pink Panther theme as a weird end-of-the-night song? That's what interested me in the original Balearic sounds.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:25 PM on September 6, 2014

[This is great.]
posted by SisterHavana at 10:10 PM on September 7, 2014

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