For many years Ibiza sound has been a point of reference for both DJs and clubbers. People came to the island to listen to the newest, boldest and most forward-thinking tunes that would reach European clubs only in a few months, if not years. Ibiza once was setting the standards for the international party community and was the undisputable clubbing capital of the world.
In XXI century, though, digital technologies made music accessible for everyone and at the same time killed the magic of chasing for new records and collecting rare releases. The notion of “the sound of Ibiza” became a casual victim as well – it’s almost impossible to explain what constitutes this sound now and how can it be characterized.
Ibiza became a worldwide music phenomenon in the 1980s due to Balearic, the eclectic style that embraced everything from rock to disco and up to the newly born house. The creation of Balearic as a style is attributed to the legendary DJ Alfredo, who was Amnesia resident DJ back then and now regularly plays at We Love... Space on Sundays as well as at some other events across the island. The most comprehensible way to explain the essence of Balearic is to describe it as “anything goes” – it was not the stylistic purism that mattered, but the mood, the general impression of being happy and dancing nights and days away on the most hedonistic island of the planet. Listening to the original Balearic, it was hard to forecast that it would develop into modern house and techno: what is played at Ibiza discos now might have seemed monotonous and soulless to party-goers three decades ago.
In the 1990s numerous sub-genres started to branch off from the generic “dance music”, and by now the diversity of electronic styles has become almost endless. However, not all of them are represented in Ibiza – only a few most popular, commercially viable breeds have consolidated their grip on the island. Techno, tech-house, deep-house and big room house are dominating Ibiza dancefloors today, while Balearic is no more than a historical phenomenon. The striking truth is that Ibiza has closed its doors to new music, and in search for fresh tendencies and artistic experiments you should go anywhere but here.
As we often mentioned in our previous articles, this party-oversaturated summer was close to hopeless regarding artwork, design and exciting party concepts. Being musically recognizable was one of the few ways to preserve the brand identity – which in fact meant that a club night had to champion one and the same sound week in week out. The reason, or rather the excuse for this is the statement “tourists come to Ibiza for no more than 1-2 weeks, so every week there is a different crowd at one and the same party”. It’s good as tactical thinking, but strategically looking this approach is detrimental for the island that once was the nursery for upcoming DJ talents.
Few lucky clubs today can exercise unorthodox sound in smaller rooms (in case they do have these rooms), like for example El Salon or Premiere Etage at Space, or the Funky Room at Pacha. But as a rule, innovation and artistic self-expression don’t rhyme with modern Ibiza clubbing business. Only the strongest teams can launch a successful residency in Ibiza, the individuality of a genius DJ is helpless against the big commercial machine. If Richie Hawtin didn’t surround himself with very talented and efficient managers, would he be able to create Enter.?
When buying a music compilation with the word “Ibiza” on cover you can’t be sure if its authors have ever visited the island – maybe they are just cashing in on a fashionable brand. There are two main ways to make sure that the release has some real connection to Ibiza: it should be either the official annual compilation of an established Ibiza party or a labour of love of an Ibiza resident DJ.
It should be added though that the names of the DJs that live and work on the island are known today mostly to people who are really devoted to quality music, while the masses associate Ibiza with David Guetta and Armin van Buuren, who don’t actually belong to the Balearic spirit and are the stars of the globalized world. Welcome to the vicious circle: to reach the true spirit of Ibiza you’d better listen to the true sound from Ibiza, but in order to discover this sound you need to be an insider of the island.
And now surprise-surprise! There are no cool music shops in Ibiza. The above-mentioned official party compilations are sold in merchandize stores along with t-shirts and beach towels, but the island is by no means a crate-digger paradise where you can spend hours coddling vintage vinyl records. Ah, and of course there are looky-looky men selling CDs on the beach, but to use their services means to show barefaced disrespect to all the music industry en masse.
A few days ago Paper Aeroplane by Francesco Rossi got the prize at the Ibiza DJ Awards 2013 as the best track of the season, which is just as acknowledged as it is farfetched. Paper Aeroplane is a cool tune, but if you go out in the street to make an opinion poll, you will hear different people name absolutely different tracks as their “hymns of the season”. Be it Gotham by Ten Walls, Eat Sleep Rave Repeat by Fatboy Slim and Riva Starr, Follow The Step by Rachel Row in its numerous remixes or any other gem, expect no unanimity on the subject. In the last years there has been no evident leader in Ibiza, no one and only track of the season – just as there is no best club, or no best party, or no best DJ. Every prominent player of Ibiza party scene has carved a niche for himself and is no.1 in terms of that niche. But no comparisons and no generalizations should be made in this chaotic puzzle.
It would be fair to say that such thing as “the sound of Ibiza” hardly exists anymore, it resembles too much the sound of Beatport Top 100. We can’t talk about the sound of the whole island today, but rather about the sound of certain record labels or promo groups that bring their projects here.
Yet don’t get frustrated. At the end of the day the true sound of Ibiza, the one that you carry home and that stays in your heart forever, is not the most technically immaculate set or the most up-to-date musical trend, but the memories of the party that you visited with your best friends, where you had the time of your life and felt the happiest person in the world. In this sense things are still not that bad.