Each time we perform a web search, we draw a network to navigate, looking for patterns and trends. A couple of weeks ago we went on a YouTube wild goose hunt whose starting point was Midori Takada and 1980s Japanese ambient. This seed grew into a tree with branches of synthpop, progressive minimalism and our focus today, the neo-balearic revival (we’ll talk about those other things in future weeks).
Neo-balearic revival. Is this a thing?
It’s hard to know in these days of total spatio-temporal convergence, when all possible trends exist contemporaneously. We declare it so, making it exist, and even give you an explanation for it: the neo-balearic revival is a rebellion against the tyranny of the digital media which pervade our lives, including times of holiday under the sun which are transformed into yet another opportunity to create content, share, perform in front of an audience. The neo-balearic revival reclaims the beach as a space for repose and contemplation of the sea whence our ancestors came, as it spins in its neverending drone.
It is also a rebellion against the neo-Victorian obsession with progress, using time productively, and personal self-improvement. To the contrary, says the neo-balearic revival, the best way you can spend your time is blissfully unaware of its passage, purring under the Mediterranean sun, watching the arms of the clock melt into a pool of beautiful colours, transformations in the gradient of a perfect sky. This strategy makes time infinite, and you rich, and therefore free.
When time stretches into infinity, anything can happen, so here you have the neo-balearic revival, celebrate its arrival before the Summer is totally gone from our shores.
We begin with Joan Bibiloni, a man arrived from Balearic ground zero: Mallorca. After spending his youth in folk and prog bands, Bibiloni started a label called Blau, to release his own work, and the work of other musicians in the region. This year, many of these songs have been compiled in ‘El Sur’, a release by Dutch crate-digging label Music From Memory.
The whole thing is a complete delight. Listening to it for the first time on a September morning will make you wish that you had had it at hand on the best day of this Summer. Relax, there will always be other opportunities. Our favourite song is ‘Una Vida Llarga y Tranquila’ (A long and calm life), which in its spiral progression from jaunty guitar and flutes to transcendental lounge, serene meditation and a coda which returns to the beginning, perfectly summarises the mellow, good-natured challenge to progress we have described: the end as the beginning of a journey full of beauty, no conscience of opportunity costs, no regrets.
Somehow, Gaussian Curve passed us by last year, when they released their excellent Clouds album in, yet again, Music from Memory (No matter, as we already said, the Internet destroys space and time, and the neo-balearic revival resuscitates it making it transcendent, infinite.)
Gaussian Curve are a trio formed by an Italian ambient veteran, Gigi Masin (who also had his music compiled by Music From Memory a couple of years ago, we’ll tell you about it some other day), Jonny Nash (who you might remember from Sombrero Galaxy) and Marko Sterk.
Today we are having a day where everything fits, and the same is true for their name: the Gaussian (or normal) curve represents a distribution of probabilities where large and small events happen rarely, most of the activity is around the average. The avatars of progress might condemn the normal curve as an embrace of mediocrity, but today we push back, and defend it as a representation of tranquility, equanimity and equality. All of these feelings pervade Clouds, whose jams are effortlessly cool, suave, somewhat nostalgic.
They make us think of Peaking Lights teaming-up with Jan Hammer in a soundtrack for an alternative version of Miami Vice where no-one ever dies, or the top tunes in a stash of forgotten 1980s cassettes in the utopian cyber-constructed island where Neuromancer tries to trap Case towards the end of that novel.