Henry James famously wrote "Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language." I tend to agree with him, which is why I've been mourning the slow and laggard end of summer since Labor Day.
The Melangerie has explored so much of what inspired us during the past couple warm months, and music has been a big part of that. While we listened to a lot of disco and Brazilian music this summer, there's one album that we wanted to end the season with: Mark Barrott's Sketches From An Island 2.
Barrott is an Ibiza-based British music producer. He's known for the Future Loop Foundation and "Balearic downtempo," and I hadn't heard of him until I read a review of Sketches From An Island 2 on Resident Advisor. I went out and found the album on vinyl and spent the rest of the summer listening to it while working in my apartment, or playing it for friends over dinner and drinks.
I think part of what drew me to the album was that this summer was the first that I really spent in a city and without weekend escapes to the beach or mountains. I missed those gorgeous scenes and the tranquility that accompanies them, and Barrott's music helped turn my place into a makeshift idyllic sanctuary.
"Over At Dieter's Place" opens up with what must be clay wind-chimes colliding with wooden pipes, and a tempo that would be right at home on Ulrich Schnauss's Far Away Trains Passing By. The track is beautifully textured and meanders as I imagine any of the hilly pathways around Ibiza do. My favorite track is “Der Stern, Der Nie Vergeht," another playful one that's all drums and mimicked analog synth. The track floats and bobs, gently tugging you with it. It's also the track that starts to shift the album from giddy rhythms and percussion to somber and suspended melodies.
I thought that this album was an appropriate farewell to summer because even though the ambient beats and steel drums evoke the spirit of the season, the album's darker tracks hint at the cool weather and solitude yet to come. This mood is perfectly captured in "Distant Storms at Sea," and its foreboding, the thunderstorm rumbles throughout, is closer than the title suggests.
"Winter Sunset Sky" uses twangy guitar and rhythmic drums to create the isolation that must overtake seasonally popular islands like Ibiza. Birdcalls punctuate the entire album and help blur the line between where the album was created and where I'm listening to it.
Apart from the experience of listening to it, this album has been important for me because it introduced me to Balearic music and changed my previous view that all Ibiza music was saturated in rapid-tempo EDM. This might be a pipe dream, but I'm toying with the idea of visiting Ibiza this winter to plunge deeper into Balearic culture.
I want to mention that the vinyl version is beautiful. Illustrations of tropical birds constitute the artwork and capture the sense of beauty and untethered playfulness that fill the album.