The difference between the musical climate in Ibiza today compared to, say, five years ago is enormous. DC10, once a haven for nothing other than metronomic minimal and skeletal tech house, now counts the likes of Kerri Chandler and Maceo Plex as residents alongside recent appearances from Aril Brikha, Mano Le Tough and Kim Ann Foxman. Ushuaia (re)arrived in 2011 to bring ostentatious outdoor clubbing to VIPs, while Space has continued down its path to diversity, offering something for absolutely everyone.
Then there's Pacha. Celebrating its 40th year on the island, it surprised many with the announcement of two resident nights in particular this season. After taking Sankeys Ibiza by storm with his Diynamic Neon Nights party last summer, Solomun has been allowed to double up with his +1 event on Sunday, while proggy deep house cosmonaut Guy Gerber has sought to bring unusually subterranean sounds to Wisdom Of Glove weekly on a Wednesday.
Pacha's vision may have been aligned more typically with glam staples like Guetta's F**k Me I'm Famous over the years, however the club's embrace of less mainstream sounds isn't a completely new thing. Pete Tong set about connecting the underground with the overground last summer, and Luciano's move to the club came with a reasonable amount of fanfare in 2010, although few will argue that he remained entirely resistant to the funkiness of the Pacha sound before he flew to BOOOM! this year.
The question on everyone's lips at the beginning of the summer, then, was: how can Pacha's newcomers strike that balance? Can artists like Solomun and Guy Gerber satisfy the VIP glitterati without changing their style, and how far will a new crowd be drawn to the club altogether? These are questions DJ Mag is on the island this week to address.
But before we even set foot into the white-washed confines of Ibiza's eldest club, it's worth noting the music on the island has continued to evolve, while the rest of Europe has watched “underground” dance styles increase in popularity over the past three or four years. In a world where Duke Dumont and Disclosure can top UK charts (singles and albums respectively) and where Jamie Jones, a DJ who made his name as an underground celebrity on the island, is now staring down the barrel of mainstream recognition globally with the debut LP from his Hot Natured project this month, Pacha's dive into deeper forms of dance music isn't so hard to believe.
Solomun's profile, for example, has ballooned in the past 18 months. At IMS this year, we heard Sven Väth announce “there's currently a VIP obsession with the underground”, and Pacha, it seems, is only responding to that by adapting. Something it's done so deftly over the years. It wouldn't have survived 40 long years otherwise.
Trotting up the giant cobblestone steps — past a giant cardboard cut-out of Solomun grinning cheesily — through the giant doors into Pacha's main room at 1am on Sunday, the first thing we notice is that the big man in question is in fact facing us. Occupying the booth usually frequented by sound and light guys, Solomun's back is turned to the raised, cordoned-off VIP section, the most portentous presence in the room.
Our denim-shirted protagonist is directing all his smirking and fist-pumping not at those with a special wristband, but towards the NSVIPs (not-so-very-important people) on the dancefloor below, and the atmosphere is electric. It's also worth pointing out that behind him, the “privileged area” — where money can buy you happiness, or at least a bottle of vodka at an outrageous price — is the busiest this DJ Mag correspondent has ever seen it. Touché, indeed.
Next, we notice is that rather than the deep-slung disco/funk we've come to except from the Diynamic boss, Solomun has turned to more homogeneous chugging tech house to keep the peak-time energy steady. That is, of course, until his pièce de résistance: the deployment of the remix of Noir that helped Solomun go from coveted gem hidden in the undergrowth to a gateway drug to the more lucrative glean of the world above. Followed by, you guessed it, his remix of Foals 'Late Night' with its glottal indie vocals and guttural house drop. And judging by the explosive reaction below, it's exactly what people have come for.
He's dealt no favours to the widely respected Pampa boss DJ Koze, though. The floor is now hyped up to the max, so it takes some meaty Berlin-bred techno to keep the vibe alive. Following an hour that sees the 'Amygdala' man throw together a set varying in techno gradients with touches of deep, groovy house, it's time for Solomun — who having not left the booth, not for want of sambuca shots (or the toilet?) — to join him to play back-to-back.
It's a combination that on paper — especially a few years ago — couldn't go wrong. But now, in this new context, there is a genuine sense that the two, like the coolest kids at junior school on their first day of high school, are in slightly unfamiliar territory. It's a dynamic that sees the night's figurehead drop 'White Noise' into a slice of stripped-back and incredibly funky house served up by Koze. A decision that leaves a few on the dancefloor — including this correspondent — scratching our heads, while serving as a reminder that with the collision of underground and mainstream values there is inevitably going to come with the odd clash or moment of confusion.
That's not to say the Solomun +1 formula doesn't work. The place, nearly at capacity, is kept jumping until 5am and — in among the more obvious bits — there are more than a few moments of musical distinction to impress even the more chin-stroking elements on the island this year. And for that, we take off our hats to the big man.
A few days later, DJ Mag is struck with yet another dialectic. After a short cab-ride up the hill from Ibiza Town, we find ourselves outside in the plush, ashen confines of Destino, Pacha's new high-end resort where Nicolas Jaar — more prone to dusty warehouses and smoky basements — is following up a spaced-out deep house set from Guy Gerber with a live set. It's envisioned as a preamble for the Wisdom Of A Glove party at the club later tonight, but during Jaar's set it feels more like a festival than your standard outdoor pre-party, albeit one located beside the aqua green pool of a luxury five-star setting.
Perched on a pedestal deep at the back of a raised stage encased by a gargantuan wooden shell, Jaar lays down the funkiest, most immediate set we've heard from him yet despite a one-minute-long intro of pure, ear-piercing (actual) white noise (not the Disclosure kind). Made of Malibu-flavoured soul samples and disco basslines, it sounds as massive as the setting, shedding enough warmth to satisfy those here who've never heard of him, while at the same time sounding distinctly Jaar.
The visuals too — displayed on a giant LED wall of psychedelic lava — are spellbinding, and we find ourselves as part of the thousand-strong mass, jumping around as the sun sets, surrounded by palm trees — like something from a graduation scene from Sweet Valley High — to an artist we last saw hidden in the shadows of London's Fabric. Headfuck, eh?
It gets even more bizarre when we arrive at Pacha to find Four Tet — reinstated to the original DJ booth that faces the VIP area — dropping rudeboy techno to a slightly confused-looking floor, until we pop next door to find DJ Tennis delivering Carl Craig's remix of Theo Parrish's 'Falling Up' to a snugly rammed back room.
Back in the main room, though, Nico Jaar back-to-back with Gerber is a collage of upfront techno and jacking house of the sort few would associated with either artist, against a backdrop of skimpily-dressed dancers on podiums. And the place is pumping.
So there you have it. Nothing is quite as it seems at Pacha Ibiza this summer. A few slightly jarring moments aside, the newfound bravery of the booking policy under the auspices of new creative director Stephen Glenn Hulme has come up trumps. Attracting the attention of clubbers on the island who wouldn't be seen dead at Subliminal or F**K Me I'm Famous, Pacha has in turn brought something to those who wouldn't usually seek it otherwise, and it's going down a bit of alright.
What remains to be seen is if the increasing diversity of the two cherries can provide the Urgell family legacy with enough fuel to last another 40 years. If you ask us, the future looks good.