Reissued on Vinyl: Sun, drums and boogie on Joan Bibiloni’s virtuoso retrospective El Sur





el sur_joan bibiloni

Following our beginner’s guide to Belgian Cold Wave last time out, this week’s reissue review is another doozy from a label quietly building a reputation as an island of astute and discerning calm on the lawless flood that is the reissue market. The third entry on Music From Memory pulls the work of Balearic local Joan Bibiloni to the fore, showcasing highlights from across five of the guitarist’s solo albums from a particularly productive period in the mid-80’s during which he pioneered a unique brand of off-kilter drum programming, tape looping and sun-soaked synth ambience. The Vinyl Factory’s Patrick Ryder implores you to immerse yourselves in the luscious beach boogie of this truly unsung virtuoso.

Words: Patrick Ryder


Joan Bibiloni
El Sur
(Music From Memory, 2014)

As winter’s chill gives way to the dewy warmth of spring and the endless blue sky of summer stretches out ahead of us (well, we can live in hope) the Balearic mafia stretch out of their winter hibernation and get to work. The Dutch branch of this bearded brotherhood centres around the charming clutter of a small record shop in Amsterdam’s throbbing groin. Housed in a former prostitution window in the district from which it takes its name, Red Light Records has built up a lofty reputation since it first opened its doors in 2012, tempting diggers the world over with an exceptional selection of rarities and curios across the musical spectrum.

This is no surprise though, since the men behind the counter are none other than Holland’s foremost diggers, collectors and archivists Abel Nagengast and Tako Reyenga, two top table players in the international Balearic fraternity. Naturally the pair, along with close friend Jamie Tiller, have harnessed their extensive collections, intimidating knowledge and passion for music into the creation of a label intended to champion forgotten sounds at risk of being lost in the temporal landslide.

The aptly named Music From Memory has so far given us mere mortals the opportunity to enter the world of Rhode Island surfer Leon Lowman’s seductive boogie, and bathe in the serene ambience of Italian composer Gigi Masin. For their third release, they head west across the Mediterranean from Italy seeking the sun-drenched shores of the Balearic Isles and the eclectic exuberance of Mallorcan guitarist Joan Bibiloni Feber.

A prolific and prodigious talent, Bibiloni began releasing music as a teen in the late sixties. His early career primarily focussed on esoteric rock sounds, incorporating jazz elements into the prog rock du jour. His time in Zebra and Euterpe led to session and live work with a number of musical titans including Jon Anderson of Yes, Kevin Ayers and Jon Cage, but his own compositions failed to gain the same exposure. Driven by a desire to promote his own music, as well as the work of the talented but overlooked artists of his native Mallorca, Joan founded the Blau label in 1982. His restless creativity and search for new sounds and experiences led him to a fascination with the emerging technology of the time, and on 1984’s Una Vida Llarga I Tranquila, he began to incorporate tape loops, drum machines and synthesizers into his studio arsenal.

El Sur collates ten of the finest moments from Una Vida… and the five albums which followed, showcasing the beauty, inventiveness and groove of his electronic period. The A-side opens with the dancefloor leanings of post disco trio “The Boogie”, “El Cumpleaños Se Jaimito” and “Valerie”, which are sure to get shoulders rolling, heads nodding and prompt mile wide smiles with their upbeat and uplifting jazzy tones. You could be forgiven for mistaking this groovesome trilogy for a lost cassette from the Midwest if it weren’t for the gentle shimmer of island life running through the music.

As the needle heads to the runout the sound becomes more intricate, electronic and soothing, indicating Bibiloni’s mastery of the tools at his disposal. Virtuoso guitar playing, circular sequences and off kilter drum programming run through “Sobrevivir”, “El Salto Del Martin” and “Val, I Vuw Ya”, evoking the spirit of a more playful and rhythmic younger brother to Manuel Göttsching’s E2-E4. The flip opens with the bold experimentalism of “Una Vida Llarga I Tranquila II”, a dissonant and discordant sound collage of piano, spoken word and tape loop. “Migas” gets back into the groove, combining primitive pads with exotic drum machines to capture the blunted sounds that the current breed of boogie producers are trying to find. The LP closes in truly horizontal fashion with the soothing Mediterranean guitar licks of “Sa Fosca” and the serene sounds of “La Española”, which marries the pitter patter of electronic percussion with expansive synth sounds to leave us drifting on an endless ocean of sound.

Each of the ten tracks on El Sur displays a different facet of Bibiloni’s sound and personality, whilst maintaining an impeccable quality, and cohesive narrative throughout. The knowledge and expertise of Abel, Tako and Jamie shines through the selection and sequencing of this LP, but is rightly eclipsed by the beauty and charm of the artist himself. As with the previous releases, El Sur comes beautifully packaged (with a gorgeous sleeve courtesy of Commission’s David McFarline and King Of Gold), well pressed and with extensive sleeve notes for the studious among you.