There’s an argument to say that “Balearic” is a genre-tag that should only ever be applied sparingly. Originally coined by early British visitors to Ibiza during the 1980s, it was meant as a “catch-all” term to describe the baggy, E-friendly eclecticism of White Isle legend DJ Alfredo. Since then, many have argued over the true definition of “Balearica” – popular explanations have included pop records that sound good on pills, songs that sound good in the Ibizan sunshine and a celebration of unlikely obscurities from a myriad of styles – while the sound has inched towards mainstream acceptance due to an inexcusable string of naff “nu-Balearic” compilations from the usual commercial suspects.
Zürich based DJ/producer Lexx has curated the eighth Originals compilation for Claremont 56, which is set for release next week.
Five years is a long time in the world of electronic music. As anyone who has ever attempted to run a record label will tell you, half a decade can seem like an eternity. Congratulations, then, to Paul Murphy, whose dedication has ensured that the Claremont 56 label has arrived at its fifth birthday not only in tact, but seemingly in rude health.
Continuing their unrelenting yet very calming mission to deliver the finest in contemporary Balearica, Paul ‘Mudd’ Murphy’s Claremont 56 label is preparing to release a second album of blissfully reclined psychedelia from Italian duo Almunia.
When it comes to contemporary Balearica, nobody does it quite as well as Paul ‘Mudd’ Murphy’s Claremont 56 label. Murphy’s own work – often in collaboration with guitarist Ben Smith – is a prime example of how to get it right. While his releases, and that of the label as a whole, often tick all the nu-Balearic boxes – slo-mo grooves, sun-kissed guitars and the like – they rarely wander into soft-focus noodling territory, which is a trap that often befalls such enterprises.
This latest audio missive from Claremont 56, the debut album from newcomers Almunia – Leonardo Ceccanto and Gianluca Salvadori – is another great example of nu-Balearic at its best. Whether they’d appreciate that tag is another matter. You see, while New Moon does indeed tick many of the nu-Balearic boxes, it’s not your average Balearic by numbers full-length. For every moment of sweet, Smith & Mudd-ish semi-acoustic groovery (see blissful closer “Until She Comes”), there are three or four others that revolve around echo-laden Peter Green style blues licks, druggy rhythms and deep-fried psychedelic wizardry. This off-kilter mix of dark and light elements gives New Moon an attractively intoxticating feel throughout, also ensuring that it steers clear of the usual clichés.
On the one hand, you have the Peter Green meets lazy West Coast rock of the title track, the drifting guitars and quietly pulsing rhythms of “Das Estrellas” and the haunting, dewy-eyed early morning melancholy of “Electro Blues”. In contrast, there’s the dark, heavily electronic, dub disco-blues of “Travel” and “Moving Up Slowly”, a deliciously dubby concoction that sounds like a cosmic rock-era indie B-Side produced by the Idjut Boys. See also opener “L&G Psychedelic”, another slo-mo trip into beguiling, eerily bluesy territory. Whether nu-Balearic is another musical dead end remains to be seen, but as long as Claremont 56 keep releasing albums of this calibre, we’ll have no complaints.
Although initially launched a few years back as an outlet for the contemporary Balearic stylings of producer Paul ‘Mudd’ Murphy and his various associates, Claremont 56 has developed into something of a must-check label for open-minded music heads. A commitment to unearthing little-known or unreleased gems from often overlooked or left-of-centre production mavericks (Fist of Facts and Holger Czukay, for example), coupled with deluxe artwork and limited edition vinyl pressings, has made many of the label’s releases nigh-on essential.
For those with a passion for the obscure and historic, this latest Claremont 56 label is something special – even by Murphy’s exacting standards. Amazingly, it’s the first ever collection of recorded material from a New York band called Dog Eat Dog. Little known outside of nerdish post-punk circles due to a previous lack of record releases, Dog Eat Dog were once thought of as one of the most innovative and incendiary live acts in the Big Apple punk-funk scene. Quite way they never made it to wax is a mystery; certainly, the music showcased here – a mix of studio demos and live tracks, recorded in the late 1970s and early 80s – is as good as any of their contemporaries (ESG, Liquid Liquid and Talking Heads being the most obvious comparisons).
There is, naturally, plenty to savour. “New Bongos” and “Dog Eat Dog” offer a rare insight into their infamous live shows, revealing a sparse but funky sound that combined ESG-ish live bass, snaking saxophones and loose drums with early B-52s attitude and Talking Heads strut. Then there’s the likes of “Windingo” and “Sonic Turf” – acid-fuelled hoedowns that sound like chaos distilled into three-minute chunks of NYC grooviness. It all adds up to a thrilling slice of previously unheard musical history – a raw but funky fusion of low-slung rock, dub funk and disco-punk. As you’d expect from Claremont 56, the vinyl version of Dog Eat Dog is something to really treasure. Pressed in limited quantities on white vinyl with a reproduction of original band artwork by Keith Haring, it’s an absolute delight.
The tracklisting for Felix Dickinson’s instalment of the famed Originals series on Claremont 56 has been such a closely guarded secret we’d suggest even Julian Assange would’ve struggled to get his mitts on them prior to its release. The man known to the discothèque as Foolish Felix is loved in London and beyond for his eclectic DJ sets and impeccable taste, and as such there’s a wide spectrum of under-appreciated, obscure gems here. However the obvious question tumbles involuntarily from our lips: does this stand up to the past Originals compilations from Mark Seven, Sean P, Moonboots and Matthew Burgess & Jolyon Green? Previous volumes have thrown up individual gems such as the utterly brilliant “Got To Fan The Flame” by Gordon’s War (a highlight of Burgess and Green’s selection), while each of Mark Seven’s 12 picks for volume 2 offered a fascinating glimpse into the mind of the ultimate collector.
The sexy Latino strut of Kolbe-Illenberger-Dauner’s “Fun Tango” gets things off to an auspicious start, while King Sporty And The Extras’ early 80s boogie funk jam “Do You Wanna Dance” features the distinctive voice of King Sporty aka Jamaican reggae singer Noel Williams, a man best known for co-authoring “Buffalo Soldier” with Bob Marley. House heads will immediately sniff out the inclusion of “Feeling Sleazy” by Fingers Inc, a brilliantly dubby track which predates the current vogue for promiscuous deep house by, oh, a decade or two. Staying on a Chicago tip, next up sees some late 80s Windy City jack courtesy of Joshua’s “On The Other Side”. Things reach a suitably decadent crescendo with Roshelle Fleming’s 11 minute “I Know Just What You’re After” before we’re treated to a porn anthem (Gabi Delgado’s “History Of A Kiss”) and a wonderful finale of extravagant electric guitar hooks and vocodered vocals (the Bestedos edit of “Moving On”) that ensure that Originals Volume 5 takes its rightful place in the pantheon of Claremont compilations.