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Compilation of the Month: Various Artists ‘Ritmo Fantasía: Balearic Spanish Synth- Pop, Boogie And House (1982-1992)’

DJ Trujillo curates a superb time capsule of early Balearic dance music for Soundway Records, from languid pop and sensual wave music, to velvety house anthems

Throughout the ’80s, the iconic Ibiza nightclub Ku (now Privilege) held a regular party known as Noche Española, in which trendy party goers would dance exclusively to records by Spanish artists; from Iberian pop ballads and boogie tunes, to wavey synth-pop dazzlers and sun-kissed early house. The music played at these parties, and throughout Ku’s calendar, laid the groundwork for what dance music fans understand as Balearic music now, though the Spanish artists that helped pioneer it have often stood without their flowers in the history books of an ultimately international scene.

Enter Venezuela-born, Berlin-based DJ Trujillo. Over the past 10 years or so, he’s spent countless hours digging through dusty crates in remote record stores, and meeting fellow diggers, to uncover as many lost gems from this era as he could. He’s been on a mission to find a missing piece of the Balearic puzzle, and to shine a light on some of its Spanish spiritual originators. The result of Trujillo’s work is now presented in this archival compilation for Soundway Records: taking in 21 tracks from between 1982 and 1992, and touching on everything from languid pop and sensual wave music, to velvety dancefloor anthems.

The arrival of ‘Ritmo Fantasía’ couldn’t be more perfectly timed. As the winter settles in and a persistent chill pulls a blanket of gloom over everything, the warmth at the heart of this compilation is transportive. Listening to these tracks, you can almost feel the sun caress your skin, as a breeze carries irresistible beats and melodies right into your chest and feet. From the intimate, swaying pop of opener ‘Puente De Esperanza’ by Marengoto to the delay-drenched bass and soft melodic funk of Blaumarí’s closer ‘Memòries’, there’s an inviting atmosphere here that is impossible to not fall into a luxurious, sensuous step with.

There’s a duty of care required in archival releases like this, in ensuring the music is correctly represented and the songs within are given their due context. It’s something Soundway Records has always done exceptionally well, and this compilation is no different. Few stones are left unturned as Trujillo touches on underground music from throughout Spain, from Madrid and Valencia to smaller coastal cities such as Marbella, Gijón and Cádiz.

Many, though not all, of these tunes are one-off hits by artists who faded into obscurity in later years, who released on short-lived labels such as Cantos and Prismatic. The time taken to uncover these songs, and sequence them in a way that feels intuitive and affecting, is evident. That level of care extends to the compilation’s artwork: a piece by the artist Yves Uro, whose posters for Ibiza clubs including Ku between 1977 and 1990 came to define the era’s visual aesthetic.

There’s so much to love in this release. Zas’ ‘I Love My Body’ is a silky, sexy number built on muffled brass, effervescent keys and a swaying beat, all of which underpin a gorgeous, understated vocal. Scan Man’s ‘Arabia’ is the sort of hook-laced hip-house cut that is so unabashedly silly you can’t help but get swept up in it. Tracks from Madrid Groove, Poly-C and Nsue are jaunty classic house cuts with a distinctly Mediterranean flair, while intoxicating wave jams from Jaume Escala and Mogambo place these songs in the wider context of European synth music from the era.

‘Ritmo Fantasía’ is a superb time capsule from a musical golden era: the dawn of one of the world’s most enduring party scenes. Perfectly curated, the heat and hedonism oozes from this compilation, and the music’s lasting influence echoes through its tracklist. In the depths of winter, this release is a sun-baked diamond of Balearic escapism.

Read about the fascinating world of reissue labels, including Soundway Records, here

Eoin Murray is DJ Mag's deputy digital editor. You can follow him on Twitter @eoin_murraye