Joan Bibiloni - Selected Works 1982-1989 (NuNorthern Soul, 2020)
The Master of the Balearic vibe sees his fire burning brightly still with this superb reissue of selected cuts from his 1980s works.
Balearic music means a lot of different things to different people, with its very nature certainly changing throughout the years. But, when you go back to the source, the very heart of it all, it's not exactly a defined 'sound', merely a collection of free spirits embracing their context and producing music that is as informed by the world as they are by the music that inspires them.
True to its word, when delving back in time into the 60s, 70s and 80s, you find a treasure trove of musical representation that affirms the scene as one that remains cherished to this day, an embodiment of experimentation laced with emotive vibrations that when combined with a vision to translate the colours and people within the context, there is seemingly endless possibilities. A true melting pot of sounds, tones and feels, an environment that people all over the world look to replicate through their parties, local scenes, clubs or festivals, the essence of Balearic music shines through as something which will always be replicated and relevant. Originating from the islands within the Balearic Sea, many would flock on holiday to the islands for down time, and for those willing to push the boat out a bit, a real sense of escapism, something that could be found within the islands beautiful vistas, sparkling deep blue seas and of course a community of like minded individuals who all looked to each other for inspiration and good times. The feel that immediately resonates from the records made during this time all point to a notion that swells within us when listening, a calm soothing sensation, like a warm breeze when sitting under the shade, a very visceral picture of the surroundings, the varying vibes captured by differing musicians who all looked to place their personal take on things. Its that feeling you only get when taking your mind of things, a mental freedom of sorts that only accompanies people when they get away, place themselves somewhere else for a short time and shed the day to day monotony that defines modern day life. Gone are the hassles, the stresses, the worries, replaced by embracing the kind of music that delves into that sense of letting go, smiling at each other and enjoying moments we have where life really resonates with every passing second. In many ways, that is perhaps this writer's own personal view of Balearic music and its associated sounds, but its certainly a feeling that gets captured by so many contemporary artists who look to capture that essence. The key work, the sultry haze that accompanies everything, the tenderness that is drawn from gently undulating soundscapes, rocking us to a space place where we feel the warmth in our hearts and the joy in our heads. Balearic music remains so very relevant for these reasons, a feeling and umbrella term that is applied to music that achieves these goals via tonally mastering how emotion and musical features can lead people to that place they wish they could be all day, every day. Even the musical landscapes has changed significantly since these times, to this day you still hear frequently the Balearic sound of the past on the radio, playing by the beach, soundtracking people's experiences. Its an essence, and its one that will forever be associated with the Isles that reside within its deep blue waters.
If Balearic music had a gatekeeper, someone who really set up the template for its foundations and ideals, there are a few contenders, with Joan Bibiloni being right up there as one of the movement's most important artists. Born in Mallorca, Bibiloni immersed himself in the early 70s scene on the island, where musical and social exploration become a part of life for many, with the melting pot of ideas beginning to take shape. Bibiloni had by this point developed into a real guitar talent, and in 1972 joined the Spanish Prog Rock band Zebra, who released a slew of excellent records during the 70s, including their self titled 1976 LP, which saw Bibiloni take centre stage with his beautifully rhythmic and dynamic playing. It was during this time that Bibiloni really honed his craft, along with really exploring every single facet of his musical vision, with the bands expressive style allowing him to think more about accommodating jazz and fusion styles of playing, which would lead to his breathtaking array of sounds that flowed from his 1980s efforts. It was during this time that warmth and electronica had come hand in hand, with genres and scenes all around the world waking up to how narrative less songs could put people in a time and place, an emotional mood or context, and Bibiloni looked to craft his own vision of how that could be made possible. He blended his expert guitar playing with tonal plains, with expansive panning and boundaries being set that allowed for an inherent deepness to flow from his music, a pure representation of his environment and how he felt about it. His albums from this time are all brilliantly diverse, swinging from classical stylings through to a greater emphasis on fusion styles (particularly jazz), along with ethereal ambient led numbers that remained more loose but moved the focus onto soundscapes of epic proportions. Bibiloni was able to really conjure up moments of true bliss, the essence so vivid and alive, it came across like a fully realised painting, a scene for us to dip our toe into and touch all the vibrancy, the elements jumping out at us to come take a mental saunter with them. A soundtrack to our walk through life, for the moments where we need to take a breather and soak it all up, or a time to immersive yourself into genre spanning music, or for a reflective period when we want to just marvel at the artistry of a genius, then Bibiloni has you covered on so many levels, formats and contexts. Its music that contains enough vibrancy and feel to move mountains, land and air, as time stands still to appreciate his music for what it is - a never ending pool of joy and excellence. Looking back through his discography is like reading a map of all the things which make the Balearic moniker shine, starting off with his excellent debut, 'Joana Lluna', that landed in 1982, and introduced us to Bibiloni's new stylings; the expertly funky electronic leaning 'Una Vida Llarga I Tranquila', a incredible piece of new age funk that just set the musical boundaries a little bit wider, with the record arriving in 1984; the beautiful rhythmic tones found on his 'Color Drops' record, which he recorded with Ernie Mansfield, with the album arriving in 1985; the excellence found within his 'Born' album (1989), that really saw his sound come full circle and embrace the ambient beauty many associate with Balearic music today; the new age mastery found on the 'Viaje En El Tiempo' record (1991); and finally, for anyone looking to get into his collective works, check out the incredible 'El Sur' compilation album, which arrived via the excellent Music From Memory label, and is just a reminder of just how damn talented and diverse the man is. If you like your lucidity to be constantly tantalised, your imagination kept on its toes and your mind free to roam, then we throughly recommend taking a trip down those sun drenched vistas with Joan, you really won't regret it.
And now we arrive at the latest record to bare his name, 'Selected Works 1982-1989', that includes some selected cuts off his works from the same period, with the release coming via the NuNorthern Soul imprint. The EP is wonderfully expansive, with each cut really highlighting just how diverse Bibiloni's sound was, going at a slow breezy pace through his funk fuelled jazz fusion vision, with peaks and troughs in relation to energy found throughout. Brilliantly expressive, phenomenally rich, rhythmically and melodically peerless, this is Bibiloni at his most bombastic, experimental and creative, and this record just sums up the musician and everything he is and has been. So, without further ado, lets pore a glass of something mystical, put the record on, and look out the window, with wishful eyes and an open mind, keen to soak up everything there is on offer........
Up first comes 'Joana Lluna', and we begin right back at the very beginning of the 80s, with the classical jazz tinged guitar opening things up for us. The guitar moves between sweeping fast paced solo lines before swinging back and forth between lush picking and chordal work, mesmerising us with its vibrant and exciting movement, setting up the feeling for what is to come in the next few sequences. Bibiloni then settles on the main underlying chordal progression, which is quickly joined by the soft drumming patterns underneath, with the melodic development that comes next something to really marvel at. The lead guitar line is joined in unison with the vocals and flute, crafting a spell binding harmony that is so easy to get within, its fast paced presence demonstrating the sheer brilliance of Bibiloni and his compositional work, as the track then leads into a wonderful verse section with the flute taking over on lead duties. The song has an incredible drawn out vibe to it, unravelling itself with each new bridge and sequence, rolling out in front of us like a vista with the sun setting at the end, with a joyful enthusiasm that is very very infectious indeed. Before long, we move back to the guitar acting as the lead, strolling through all the bars with such ease and genius, its hard to deny this musical expression, its simply delightful in every sense of the word. The song then plays itself out with the initial chords that started it all, and this slowed down saunter eases us off of the natural high we experienced greatly within that, a truly wonderful piece of music that lasts a lifetime. Wonderful in every sense of the word. Up next we have 'El Cumpleaños de Jaimito', and now we descend into the funk of it all. The track begins with the bombastic driven funk chords, wide and brassy and bold, before moving into the groooove, which consists of the stripped back drumming inter laced with smooth chords and a hard as hell bass line, that swirls and meanders around the pulse, moving the track into very interesting territories indeed. The guitar then pops its head above the parapet, that then signals the lead into the next sequence, with the guitar taking the lead, soloing for a moment before the initial chords add in the chapter marker, before then swinging back into that damn fine groove. Before long we go back into the verse of sorts, that is allowed to extend a bit further this time, as we arrive through the numerous sequences once more. There is so much care and attention placed to all the micro evolutions that occur during this track, with so much intrigue and interest placed around every corner for us to get within and enjoy, and one that does a real number on us and our dancing feet. Elevated funk for the heart and the mind. Up next comes 'Laiala Laiala', and we move back down in gears to something a little bit more soft and gentle. The song starts off with the drum rolls and twinkles of guitar notes taking us away, a loose feel that then quickly moves into a wonderful space filled with such majesty, with chords and gentle drumming easing us into a new day. The vocal work then adds extra gloss and feel to proceedings, as the track settles into a steady rhythm, adding further and further to the vitality of the track, its evolution so subtle but sprinkled with mesmerising touches that continue the dialogue on with purpose and presence. The vocal work remains very much the cornerstone of the sound, adding that additional progression that moves the listener around a imagined soundscape filled with life and activity, describing without words the scene that is being witnessed in front of the musician. Just when the track has done the maximum in regards to settling you into a sombre gentle place, it picks up the energy with some scatting and fast paced guitar work, and this signals the energy to pick itself up to match, with the track going the extra to move us into a new state of mind, and its just wonderful. To build and build via the use of tone and melody before transitioning into a breakneck rhythm is truly remarkable, and just demonstrates how good Bibiloni is in accommodating his varying styles and influences into tracks. A quiet explosion of feel, and we are all for it.
Up next comes 'Alfonsina Y El Mar', and the tone becomes rather spacious on this one. Immediately the backdrop becomes grander, with the instruments utilised in a more spaced out manner, with the guitar work on full display within the opening section, which will remain the driving force of the track moving forward. Bibiloni utilises all of his expertise in crafting a whirlwind of tones and notes, moving between his trademark sweeps and slowed down moments, weaving a narrative of sorts that jumps from micro explosions of energy before taking breathers that allow us to soak it all up. Percussive elements had been brewing in the background for a while, and then suddenly we move into a segment where the drums become prevalent, featuring in a way in which they contextualise the guitar playing for a moment, providing that overall differential that then leads back into the guitar taking over the view, a flow of epic proportions. Truly beautiful. To finish up, we have 'Una Vida Llarga', and the energy is going right from the off on this one. Bibiloni cooks up a pretty magnificent opening segment, filled with all his trademark features, before the switch up we didn't know was coming, as the track moves into an expansive soundscape, with soft cymbals underpinning cosmic new age synths and soft guitar loops, with simmering percussive features thrown in for good measure, adding an air of mystic to proceedings. its expansive, its bold, its exceptionally deep, there's a lot here to marvel at, as tinkering piano, keys and chords take turns to move the track onwards to new and exciting places. Content in allowing this feel to play itself out, Bibiloni explore every single possible facet of this plain of musical existence, milking it for all its worth, and its worth absolutely every single penny, a musical expression of such purpose, such energy, such desire. Its a fitting end to a record filled with colour, feel and vitality, a record that demonstrates Bibiloni at his finest. Music for the soul, music that transports you to certain places, into certain moods, from planet earth and back again. Sheer genius.
Joan Bibiloni not only demonstrated his magnificent guitar playing throughout his career, but he contextualised it so wonderfully in his music, using it as a tool to draw together so much from other genres and places. Within the melting pot of music that he found himself within on Mallorca, he carved out a real name for himself as a purist purveyor of the sounds of the Isles, a true original who drew inspiration from the source and created his own pools of beauty for others to laud over for years to come. On this EP, we see 5 brilliant cuts that show just how far and wide he was willing to go in order to showcase the depths of his musical mind, at times dazzlingly excellent, at others frantically energetic, and at others momentarily euphoric, there's little that he didn't touch on, his contribution to the Balearic sound confirmed until the end of days. As a little introduction into his world, you should look no further than this absolute slice of heaven. So like we said, maybes its time you switched off for a few minutes and be transported back in time, to a gorgeous vista you never knew existed, and prepare to be amazed at what you might see and experience.
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