Constructing dance beats around chirping crickets is a rare occurrence—if not a first—but it's exactly what Uruguayan duo Rocha does in the opening bars of "Night Music," before settling into a cool, midtempo groove and riding it for 10 reverb-drenched minutes of dubby bass, marimba, and psych-rock guitar riffing. The first band to release on International Feel, which also calls the small South American country home, Rocha's sound is a spot-on summation of the vibe the label is championing—breezy, Balearic chill-out—and of IFEEL024 – A Compilation, a two-disc collection that captures previously limited-edition, vinyl-only releases, rare remixes, and the distinct path International Feel is carving through underground dance music. In fact, if one asked founder Mark Barrott—of Future Loop Foundation fame—what tempo that he liked to live his life at, it would come as no surprise if he supplied an answer around 110 bpm. Many of the releases on his imprint ostensibly groove right there with him, and have been doing so since he founded International Feel back in 2009.
Based around his idea to return something tactile to dance-music releases, International Feel's offerings are, without fail, a labor of love; they're finely detailed, well mastered, and often in brilliant packaging. In a recent interview, Barrott said his goal was to create the "Louis Vuitton of vinyl." Obviously, this also lends an air of exclusivity to many of International Feel's singles, as many are created in limited runs that aren't always the easiest to set one's hands upon. For those feeling this elusiveness, IFEEL024 – A Compilation should come as a welcome addition to the catalog. Nearly half of the tracks included are previously unreleased or vinyl only, while two saw cult-inducing limited runs. One, The Globe's "Adventure Party," practically makes up for the purchase price on its own with its riotous combination of twisted 303, gospel piano, and disco swank; it's no wonder that the song has made its way into the peak of Horse Meat Disco's sets. The other, Parada 88's "You're Gonna Miss Me," is equally primed for the dancefloor, chopping up the title's refrain and scattering it over thick analog bass and smack-you-in-the-face handclaps.
While these two sought-after cuts have an undeniable club appeal, the rest of the compilation settles into International Feel's core sound. Early on in the first disc, Bubble Club sets an easy-going pace with celestial slow-burner "The Goddess," an effervescent track that floats along with tropical bongos and waves of synths—think pre-split Aeroplane or the sounds of kindred-spirit imprint Permanent Vacation. Returning to organic Balearic house, British producer Gatto Fritto's "Invisible House" slinks along much like a production from Todd Terje would, marrying folksy guitar strumming and bursts of dubby sound effects with a bouncy propulsion. Fellow British outfit Coyote faithfully maintains this sun-kissed beach vibe with its remix of International Peoples Gang's "Second."
Signing edit legend DJ Harvey was a huge boon for International Feel, and the leftfield Locussolus guise he adopted appears in two very different ways here. First is the cosmic downbeat of Com Truise's remix of "Throwdown," a stark contrast to the eccentric punk-funk gallop of Andrew Weatherall's rework of "Gunship," which sees a raspy Harvey ranting about spam and honey-glazed hams over a minimal techno crunch, distorted horn crescendos, and a driving cowbell. This bearded-weirdo sensibility makes for a perfect transition to psychedelic additions like "The Coptic Sun," a twinkling half-time jam session by label house band IFEEL Studio (the outlet for Barrott's own work), and "American Dreamer," a trippy, cosmic meditation by Quiet Village, recording here as Maxxi & Zeus.
Ibiza has come to represent a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but for Mark Barrott and the stable of artists he's built up over the past three years, it doesn't seem to be about the mega clubs and foam parties. Laidback, organic sounds and moving at a leisurely pace are at the core of the International Feel mantra. This applies to both the physical music on display and the personality that's been injected into it. While it makes sense that this same carefree mentality can be cultivated from the seaside town of Punta del Este where International Feel currently resides, Barrott has recently spoken of relocating to the Balearic epicenter off the coast of Spain. Hopefully from there, he'll be able to continue spreading his alternative gospel on what dance music can sound like. Unfortunately, he's also been talking about taking a break from label life after the release of IFEEL024 – A Compilation. With any luck, it won't be for too long, because this release is the first opportunity many will have to absorb what this visionary label is all about.