Earlier this week, Mark Barrott released a new full-length, Sketches from an Island. Recorded in his adopted home of Ibiza—the British producer previously resided in Punta del Este, Uruguay, where he founded his International Feel label—the album compiles tracks from two previous Sketches from an Island EPs, both of which were limited-edition, vinyl-only offerings. Barrott's music channels the relaxed, sunny spirit of classic Balearic sounds, yet his tracks can't be boiled to a single genre tag. Simply put, Balearic is something that ultimately boils down to a vibe, and Barrott has proven himself to be something of an expert. As such, we figured that he would be an excellent candidate for our Hi-Five series, and coaxed him into sharing a few of his favorite cuts.
Mark Barrott: The super important thing to always remember about Balearic is that it's all about the context—you could listen to these pieces in isolation and wonder what the hell is going on, but if you imagine you're in the Ku Club dancing under the dawn sky as the sun comes up with Alfredo playing everything from '80s pop to techno to proto-house to nu beat, or listening to Jose Padilla orchestrate the sunset at Café Del Mar… you'll get the vibe.
Now Now Now "Problem (Enzo Edit)"
When I was halfway through the Sketches album in the early winter, I kind of lost my way a little bit in terms of the story I was trying to tell and how the individual tracks fit into that. I was lucky enough to hook up with Paul Byrne, who runs the Test Pressing blog, and during those conversations and [by listening to] the music he sent me to vibe off, I got back on track. This was the first song on the playlist he sent over. I loved it the moment I heard it. For me, it really defines Balearic at the moment; it's simple yet complicated in a naive way, with a bit of cheese thrown in.
Andreas Vollenweider "Stella"
This reminds me of when I started International Feel. I'd just moved to Uruguay at the end of their summer (February 2008), and I was driving up and down the Atlantic coast listening to the Quiet Village album. One of my favourite tracks was "Utophia," which is basically an edit of a Vollenweider track, so although I knew him from a previous life of being a music consultant (the president of Hyatt loved him!), this made me rediscover him all over again in a different context. This particular track is my favorite. I always play it near the start of a sunset DJ set in Ibiza—it's the perfect scene setter. There's just enough momentum to pick up the pace as you stare out to sea.
Linda DiFranco "TV Scene"
A pretty famous Balearic classic to those in the know, introduced to me (of course) by Balearic Mike. I wish I could say I first heard it in the late '80s under the stars played by Alfredo at Amnesia, having dropped pure MDMA for the first time, but in reality, it was on Mike's signature on the DJ History forum. I always have a massive sense of curiosity, so I checked it out. Of course, as any student of Balearic will tell you, there is nothing more Balearic than good, slightly obscure mittle European pop music—the Linn Drum, the sax, the shoulder pads. Actually, on reading this back, the Alfredo/MDMA story sounds a lot better, so in the true spirit of Tony Wilson (never let the truth get in the way of a good story), let's all pretend that that's what happened.
Marvin Franklin with Kimo and the Guys "Kona Winds"
I was out in Venice with DJ Harvey and this actually came on the radio whilst we were sat by the beach having breakfast, looking at the early-morning surfers. I thought it was a cassette he'd brought along to play 'cos of the amazing spoken intro that just captured the mood, but when I asked him what it was and he said, "I dunno," I figured out it was the radio and actually rang US directory assistance for the first and last time in my life to get the number of the station to get a track ID. I NEVER EVER EVER get bored of the spoken intro; in fact, last summer I was a little worse for wear in the middle of a DJ set by Es Vedra and I just looped the spoken intro and left it running for 30 mins… it sounded fine to me.
Gigi Masin "Call Me"
The other half of Test Pressing (Dr Rob) sent this to me raving about it and as soon as I heard it, I knew why—it's the perfect sunset track, as witnessed by the reaction I got when I played it at my first sunset last week. People kept coming up and asking what it was—it's amazing to think that it was made 20-plus years ago. It's timeless and glorious and hearing music like this, that achieves such sophistication through simplicity, makes me keep trying harder with my own music. All of you owe it to yourselves to check out Gigi Masin's new album on Music from Memory. But remember kids, if you can only afford one album this year, Sketches from an Island is the one!