Various Artists - Retour Au Club Meduse, compiled by Charles Bals (Spacetalk, 2020)



With the hotly anticipated follow up to 2018's Club Meduse, Bals takes the dip once again with a beautifully collated selection that highlights the very best of the other side of the Mediterranean.


Its always a joy when the forgotten gems are revisited, overlooked masterpieces resurface through the crate diggers and dedicated music heads. The rarities, the sought after, the near non-existent, now available for all to enjoy. Its breaks down usually into the singles, the EPs, or the long plays, where the foundation has been formed but then lovingly repackaged for a new audience, finally reaching the world and leaving ears satisfied. It often helps to aid with music's current narrative, where DJs and producers can look to better understand the roots of their inspirations, and in turn feed that all back into the deeper meaning of why they too make music. Compilations of reissued music too hold this similar notion, but can often play a different factor in their wider meaning. Compilations often paint less of a picture about a certain record or singular artist or group, but more a rich array of various stills and portraits that combine to create a deeply vivid series of images, tone and feel that swirled around various cities, clubs, regions or simply a group of people at any one time in history. These tracks, when presented as a whole, do an incredible job at allowing us to be pulled into the past, see the world through the eyes of the creators, and feel mesmerised by the constant interchangeability between various groups or individuals who fed off each others energies. It has also shed light on the lesser known scenes around the world, places and genres that magic happened to spring from at a point in time, but has now echoed through the ages, brought forth to live has the scene through the most dedicated and passionate of individuals. Alongside that, these comps often offer the other side of the coin, where genres may have been mainstream but all the forward thinkingness occurred away from the spotlight, the treasures experienced at the time by a few is now discussed frequently. When places, experiences and good taste (better still, a great ear for the most bountiful of inspirational sources) shape a compilation, you know it is going to be a keeper.


When it comes to the compilation and the reissue, Spacetalk really do know what it all means to craft a world filled with the most vivid tracks around. The label, founded by Psychemagik’s Danny McLewin, has really found a knack for selector selection, enlisting some of the worlds finest to nurture a mood that has only ever softly and positively intensified since their debut back in 2016. Its not just the power of the musical content, its the way the tracks work together as a bundle, an enriching and intoxicating view into a scene or the mind of an expansive individual, there's never a moment where a track feels out of place. All the music is collated by a passionate hivemind, to share and re live fantastic musical explosions, to envisage a world away from ours, to be transported to new realms of musical contexts where more dots feel connected than ever before. This is evident throughout their distinctive discography, that began with Morrison Kincannon's 'To See One Eagle Fly' single, who would later be the subject of an incredible reissue of their lost album, 'Beneath the Redwoods', in 2018. What followed included Jeremy Underground's superb 'Beauty: A Journey Through Jeremy Underground's Collection' compilation, that twisted and turned through the French selector's record collection, highlighting his status as a revered selector; the atmospherical and deeply deep Afro funk comp that is 'Crown Ruler Sound', collated by Jeremy Spellacey and released in 2017; the dreamy slice of brilliance that is Jake Hottell's 'Break the Chains' reissue from last year; and easily one of last year's best compilations, from the creative and musical expanse of Ilan Pdahtzur, 'Night City Life', that confirmed the label's position at the top table of reissue dedicated imprints. As it has been noted, the labels founders weren't overly concerned with finding the rarest of the rare, but simply shining a light on the forgotten, the slightly way-sided and crossroad kind of tracks and albums that fully deserve their moment in the sun. It makes for wonderful listening, the threads of which hold each release together into a body of work that is both musically rich and bottomless in experience. Check it all out immediately.


And now we arrive at their latest release, the follow up to the sun kissed and horizon residing 'Club Meduse' record from 2018, compiled once more by the Balearic stalwart and musical gatekeeper Charles Bals. With the first record, the track list is comprised of many rare and forgotten tracks that soundtracked Bal's frequent childhood experiences in the Mediterranean, and the whole album exudes this ever present sense of warmth of nostalgia, that burns deep throughout the excellent track selection. It very much feels like the mixtape to a magical real or imaginary time down by the soft sand, the deep blue hues lapping at our feet, as the soft and lush sounds of the 70s and 80s wash over our ears. To put it mildly, the follow up was hotly anticipated, and Bals delivers once again with flying colours. The tempos and textures move more into the 80s side of things, the flavours distinctly funky, effortless and groovy across the board, and compliments the first volume so excellently. Its two sides of the same coin, across two compilations, taking in both sides of the sun. So lets take a dive.


The opener, 'Gitana Moreno' by Lili, sets the tone so perfectly, with its dripping breezy Spanish guitar opening up the curtains to the world outside, ready to be explored. The guitar remains the core driver of the melody, as the drums never have to move further than the soft space they occupy. The vocals soar high, but then the backing side soars even higher, giving this real sense of awakening and enlightenment to the song, the beginning of an experience that has so much to offer and give over. Capco's 'No Vayas Al Sol' swings in, and maintains the tempos on show during the opener. The bass line and sparse drumming give the track a distinctive swing, allowing the keys to float within the deep spaces left in-between. The vocals are what thread it all together, neatly occupying the high areas to allow for the beat to hit true and ring throughout the context. Next comes Voyage De Charme with the instrumental cut of their track 'Hôtel Des Savanes'. The drumming pattern is very full, the toms and snares hitting hard between the fast paced hi hats, as the melodic elements begin to open up as the percussive elements fall away slightly. The guitar progressions signal the beginning of the dance, moving between the chords with precision and groove. The move into the choral part displays new textures, a series of harmonic lines that weave around each other and the listener, locking us into its hypnotic swell. The perimeters of sound found within the track are vast, allowing for the continual development of the structure to keep giving over to us ever lasting feels. It always evolves, it always grows and swells, particularly when the deep jazzy pads come into play. Like a track plucked from the sky itself. Up next comes Passion Theatre with their track 'Vacation Day', that lifts us to the sun lounger for the long afternoon in the sun. The sultry silky guitar floats high above the slow beat, as the vocal work compliments it all so perfectly, riding along to the rhythm and chops of the guitar. The synth line soars high above it all, like a feather caught in the wind. The tone is one of sunny brilliance, always looking to help you crack a smile through its effortless breeziness. Next comes Claude Miss with their track 'Paco Ye Adama', and this one begins deep in the aquamarine blue somewhere. The track leans back against a terracotta wall, soft chordal pads sequenced alongside delicate guitar picking mixed in with sure and true vocal lines makes for compelling and relaxing listening. The track resides within the same frequency, content in its occupation of a space that never loses sight of its quest to serve up breezy perfection. The kind of track that soundtracks the wee moments. Next comes Cecilia with her track 'Chocolat'. Like right out of a movie where two characters remain hot on the heels of each other, but in a soft seductive kind of way, the track descends into this very left field sort of mood. Baby cries abound with soft keys and calypso sounds, the high line vocals continuing to add intrigue into the mix. Its certainly the least conventional track we have had the pleasure of enjoying so far on this record, and after enjoying tracks that give over the obvious greatness, its a fine move to serve up, at this point in the listening period, something out there to mix it all up. The story grows.


Nathalie David is up next with the track instrumental version of the track 'Coup De Foudre', and we move back into the solid grooves. The intro is all about setting the scene, lush drumming sequences give way to deep chords and a silky brass line that floats so beautifully. A moment to pause, before moving into the groove, the greatest laid back sort of lounge vibe ever, guitar ringing true underneath the chords that hold the process together marvellously. The smoothness of transitions is what makes it here, moving along at a great pace to achieve maximum engagement with the listener. The instrumental elements are tight, the mood is set, the feels are high. Next comes Jade 4 U and the Midnight Mix of 'Rainbows', which begins with the raindrops. Then comes the softly spoken vocals over a backdrop of a bass and drum line, the beating heart of it all. The melodies unfurl from within, setting this sort of tone that the night is indeed deep and the passion is burning. The verse begins, the vocals taking a very laid back approach to the proceedings, perfectly matching the swing of the beats beneath. The track then switches between these verse elements and the full melodic choruses, with the transition between the two always somewhat dramatic and never not hitting home with maximum impact. Next up is L with the track 'La Boite A Musique', and the feels continue. The track begins off with the key lines leading the way, that then morphs into the fullness soon enough, the lovingly sung vocals responding to the intricateness that develops within the instrumental composition. The track, not dissimilar to the rest of the record, has this wonderful laid back feel, the haze very much a respond to the environment these tracks were conceived in. The movements within the keys, bass and drums are delicate, floating in and out of focus with ease, providing the most brilliant of backing tracks to a song with a quick and quiet vibrancy. Jean-Claude Watrin is up next with 'Game City', and this really embraces the dub. The light drumming is interlaced with a thick bassline, that supports on top the lightest of melodic synth work. The vocal line is softly delivered, residing up high, as the bass does its magic underneath to great effect. The smoothness of the track is there for all to see and experience, moving along with real purpose and soul. The drums up the ante during the bridge, that allows for added keys to abound and grow, before it all suddenly springs to life with unreal energy, the drums becoming deep and full, the vocals and synths responding immediately. The guitar solo that comes in adds further gusto, packing a massive punch, as we finally arrive at a truly memorable moment in the compilation. Marc Et Frank very much keep the 80s boogie vibes going with the next track, 'Cap'tain Coke'. The track begins fast out of the blocks, the full blown beat giving way for high octane bass lines, fast guitar work and beautiful Chicago house style synth line progressions. The relationship between spoken word pieces and the sung chorus line are also perhaps inspired by the Windy City, providing a interesting dynamic to develop within the narrative of the track. The track is filled with all the melodic fullness you could wish for, another excursion into the scene and the atmosphere of the time.


Towards the business end of the record, we have De Dion with the Glu Glu version of their track 'Sexy Cola'. The track begins off with a series of somewhat out there drumming and synth experimentations, before all falling into play rather brilliantly. The deep electronic drums give way to the singular stab, placing the track perfectly within its time context, before the bass line and related key line ramp up the energy. The mega amount of sampled vocal lines add extra finesse, before it descends once more to give more focus to the new synth line, before the vocal line really takes us away, placed at just the right moment. Next comes Les 36'15 and the remix of the track 'Zoulous!'. The reggae influence takes hold, the swing focusing on the stabs of the keys and guitar, before the rising vocals give heed to the little chirpy synth line that moves it all in ways we were perhaps not expecting. The track looks to focus on this element, before the silky synth chords remind us once more to turn to the beat, the binding agent on a cut filled with all the rhythm you could possibly yearn for. Finally, to wrap it all up, we have Week-End Millionaire with the track 'Exit'. The tempo set is a fitting end to an album filled with so many delights, as the light interlaying synth work begins proceedings over the light calypso drumming patterns. The vocal line gently moves into the mix, providing the soundtrack for one last experience, narrating the moments in life that require the pauses and the soaking in. Wonderful.


Over the course of 14 tracks, it feels as if no stone has been left unturned, no door left unopened, in the quest to achieve the most well rounded of experiences that leave us yearning for a time machine of sorts. These tracks collectively work together so well to paint vivid images of the musical and physical context that inspired their birth, life scenes of warm hues and never ending sun sets that exudes through the tunes. The achievement in doing this not once but twice over the volumes is a testament to Bals, not just for his deep crates and dedication to this era of music, but his passion and personal connection to it all, that perhaps makes it all the more special as a collection of songs. We are transported, via one of the most enduring and fulfilling compilations you are likely to hear all year.


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