Midway through the summer, we take stock of the season so far.
This week's column presents our take on the best and the worst of the past ten weeks, spanning parties, DJs and tracks. We also sat down with Better Lost Than Stupid for a friendly back-and-forth, while finding time to swing by Phantasmagoria, The Zoo Project and VIVa Warriors.
For everything you need to know about the island in 2014, take a look at our comprehensive Ibiza guide.
Movers and shakers
It's been a trying first half of the season for Ibiza's clubbing community. In part due to the World Cup, June was particularly slow this year, leaving too many parties with half-empty dance floors. As an example of just how bad things got, the opening of Carl Cox at Space in late June, usually one of the busiest dates in the calendar, felt positively roomy. That said, a handful of Ibiza's powerhouse promoters barely felt the pinch, as the likes of Music On, Solomun+1, Defected and VIVa Warriors continue to clock up big attendances on an almost weekly basis. The latter two have proven especially dominant, showing that it's possible to exploit San Antonio's legions of young British holidaymakers while maintaining musical integrity.
As ever, 2014 has brought its fair share of new ventures. At Booom!, Suara opened with a bang, but has since seen numbers dwindle. Defected's new party, Glitterbox, has experienced the inverse, starting slow (clashing with Italy vs. England provided a particular low-point) before building to a run of two or three well-populated affairs. Pushing classic-era disco and house, the crowd is a more mature one, and full of the kind of vibrant personalities Ibiza is famous for.
That's a trait, too, of Mike and Claire Manumission's new Friday night extravaganza, Phantasmagoria. Though only one night deep, the opening was as peculiar and titillating an experience as the name suggests, treating the audience to a mixture of circus, song and full-frontal nudity. Most importantly of all though, the soundtrack—a mixture of sleazy dance and upfront disco—is up there with the best music on the island. Over the road at Pacha, Ibiza Rocks House has gone after a similarly offbeat aesthetic and done well, attracting a strong UK following. With the likes of Basement Jaxx and Groove Armada playing regularly, it is, however, that little bit more tame.
Recent months have seen an interesting phenomenon resurface, with parties joining forces in an attempt to combine assets and widen appeal. The season's most talked-about partnership was Kehakuma and Elrow, who have brought Saturdays at Space considerable success. Saying that, the numbers for Kehakuma still have a tendency to dip below par, despite repeatedly hosting enticing lineups. A party with Marcel Dettmann, Levon Vincent and Shed in a couple of weeks will hopefully pack the place out. A more even split occurred at the opening of Fuse Meets Next Wave last Tuesday. Their shared ethos and complementary sounds made for a cohesive experience, and so far one of the standout parties of the summer.
Over at Amnesia, Cocoon have eased into their 15th anniversary year, albeit with the odd dip in form in June. As we saw last year, it's a party that gets busy late into the night, which too often means missing rare warm-up sets from the likes of Dixon, Ben Klock and Marcel Dettmann. With plenty of space to dance, arriving early can be a rewarding experience. Over in Playa d'en Bossa, Space has also been busy commemorating a milestone, celebrating 25 years with a lively birthday bash. A 2,000-person singalong to Pink Floyd's "Another Brick In The Wall" is a moment that will stick in the mind.
During the week, Carl Cox and ENTER. have continued to surpass even their own expectations, though it's We Love... that deserves the most plaudits. Under the partial guidance of Safehouse Management, there's a renewed sense of vigour about the Sunday institution. Crucially, the party gets the balance right: there aren't many promoters that could line Octave One alongside Disclosure and get away with it. And with Loco Dice launching a full club-takeover this weekend, it's likely the party has yet to hit its peak.
On more of an outdoor tip, no round-up would be complete without mentioning The Garden at DC-10. Previously only in-use during opening and closing, the magnificent space has run every Monday this summer, hosting sun-kissed sets from Kerri Chandler, The Martinez Brothers and Damian Lazarus. There are currently few better dance floors on the island, especially since its main rival, Cova Santa, has yet to fully get off the ground. Inside at Circoloco, it's been business as usual, with the club frequently rammed.
Since the first week of July, Paradise on Wednesdays has been much the same, displaying surefire signs of becoming a full-time, full-club affair before long. The only downer has been Marco Carola's absence due to an ear infection, but Steve Lawler did a solid job standing-in. Appealing to a similar UK crowd, Zoo Project has continued to quietly go about achieving the impossible from the other side of the island, booking lineups that would work in Berlin, while making the numbers add up. Sets from Dungeon Meat, Ron Trent and Soundstream have all stood out, but it's Margaret Dygas whose selections made the most impact.
And then there's Sankeys. This is the best season the club has enjoyed since it opened, with new parties Duke Dumont and Tribal Sessions settling into their groove early. The latter has championed a different shade of techno to anyone else, hosting mind-bending sets from Rødhåd and Joel Mull. Though they've set the bar high, they're likely to be toppled by one of Jeff Mills, Derrick May or François K, who all are still to play. Fuse, ploughing ahead with a full 19-week schedule, has been up and down, though visits from Sonja Moonear, tINI and Next Wave have been among the most well-received at the club. Meanwhile, VIVa Warriors remains frontrunner by some margin. When Sankeys is completely full, its sweaty, warehouse feel gives it a real underground edge over its rivals.
In terms of the DJs, Seth Troxler has been on top form. The US maverick has been unafraid to lay bare the full range of his diverse record bag, looking and sounding as comfortable playing the hits in The Garden at DC-10, as he was spinning techno alongside Craig Richards and Ricardo Villalobos at Amnesia. Villalobos, too, has been on fire. Though he's only played twice (Cocoon, Next Wave), both sets have been captivating journeys through the warped underbelly of electronic music, executed with pinpoint precision. South African superstar Black Coffee has also only played twice, igniting the DC-10 Terrace with his epic brand of house, while, on equally rampant form to last year, Eats Everything continues to rock whichever crowd is put in front of him.
Finally, to the music. Jamie Jones knew Patrick Topping's "Forget" would be a hit as soon as he heard it, and he wasn't wrong—the track has been utterly ubiquitous this season. Âme's under-the-counter edit of Dan Croll's "From Nowhere" has been just as popular, hammered by the likes of Tale Of Us and Dixon. And as for DJ Koze's remix of "Bad Kingdom," there'd be no question of it being the biggest track to date, were it not for a less likely candidate. Robert Hood's Re-Plant edit of his own "Never Grow Old" has pervaded every dance floor bar none. Its blend of Detroit soul and fierce techno rhythms has made it a lynchpin in sets from Deetron, Rødhåd, Ricardo Villalobos and Bicep to name but a few.
Interview: Better Lost Than Stupid
Better Lost Than Stupid is the performance and production alias of Davide Squillace, Martin Buttrich and Matthias Tanzmann. Close friends since the early '00s, they were randomly requested to play together at Electric Zoo in 2010. Their set was a hit, so they kept it going, playing sporadically whenever the opportunity arose. This year, though, they're taking the project to the next level. We sat down with the trio several hours before their annual DC-10 showcase to discuss the decision in more detail.
The DC10 showcase is part of a wider European tour. How has the reception been so far?
DS: It's been good. Doing festivals is always kind of weird. You're not in a club so you don't have that same connection with the people, but I think it's been pretty good. Exit Festival was the first time we were playing again together, so we were struggling to understand each other, at least for the first half an hour. The two gigs after that felt way better, more united.
That's the good thing about tonight, you get to play for a lot longer and really show what you guys are about. What prompted you to take the project to the next step and do the tour and the album?
DS: The thing is that, you know, at a certain point we decided that if we wanted to keep doing this, we had to move on from just playing back-to-back. You can only do that like two, three or four times and after that it's time to move on. So we were like, 'let’s take it to the next step, let’s do an album, let’s do a couple of live shows' and it’s taking forever. The three of us have very tight schedules and between LA, Germany, Barcelona, so it's complicated.
So it’s a live show now?
DS: No, actually no. [Laughs]. We decided to do like only seven or eight festivals and they're under the Better Lost Than Stupid Soundsystem, which is the transition from back-to-back to live.
MB: We're playing around a bit more with loops, not just playing whole records, just messing about a bit more on our own. But we don’t have any synthesizers on stage or anything, like the biggers shows.
DS: I'm gonna sing a little bit on top, and play the mandolin. [Laughs].
So what exactly does it look like on-stage?
MB: Basically the whole system is on decks, and we all just play internally. They're on Traktor and I'm on Ableton, but it's all synced. We have a few controllers and it’s basically the next step to the hopefully amazing, full-on live show we are going to have next year.
What will the complete set-up look like, do you think?
MB: The dream of course would be to have a shit ton of gear with us and like maybe two or three musicians helping us out. Maybe a few guitars here and there, like a bass player and a singer.
Matthias and Davide, you must enjoy being able to play longer in the Main Room tonight? You don't get to play there as often as the Terrace.
DS: Yeah I really like it because it’s a different club. It’s not a terrace, the soundsystem is different, the reception isn't as much what we're used to.
MT: That room is in pretty good shape at the moment. It used to be that you always wanted to play the Terrace because that was the main thing.
So what is the common ground between you three? Why does it work so well?
DS: Better (points at himself), Lost (points to Buttrich) and Stupid (points to Tanzmann.) [Laughs]. What is the common ground? I don't know, friendship I guess, and we don’t take ourselves seriously.
Where do your friendships originate?
DS: Parties, afterparties...
MB: We have all known each other for years. I have known you (points to Squillace) for almost 12 years or something like this.
MT: The first time we ever met was at Mallorca airport.
MB: Really? I can’t remember. My brain is fried.
MT: On the fucking bus to the plane to Ibiza.
DS: We actually all met for the first time at Clorophilla in Italy. Nobody was really speaking English, but we worked it out.
I mean, what was it about those first performances as BLTS that made you think, yeah let’s do this again?
MB: The first time was Electric Zoo, right?
MT: Yeah but the good thing about it was the rehearsal the night before.
DS: Did we? Ah yeah at Alexi Delano's studio. You weren't allowed to smoke... We destroyed that place.
MT: That's where we got together for the first time and thought, the crowd would like this.
MB: We basically had a lot of big plans and and none of them worked. But it was a good time, definitely.
Was the first time just DJing?
MB: Yeah. I'm not sure how it came about. I think it the promoter from Electric Zoo approached us with the idea of all playing together. We liked the idea and we met up the night before.
DS: The rehearsal was like when you go to an exam and half an hour before you're trying to learn everything. That’s how it was.
MT: That pretty much sums up the whole project, actually. [Laughs.]
DS: Yeah about five minutes into any set we forget about any ideas we had. It becomes natural and you just go with the flow.
So you guys take in turns to play a track, or how does it work?
MB: We have like an order, but that changes all the...
DS: Shit, do we have two mixers for tonight?
MB: That is nothing to do with me.
MT: I took fucking care of it guys.
Not so stupid then?
DS: Come on, this is the job of a stupid person, you don't need a great mind for stuff like that. [Laughs.]
What is challenging about the project? What do you find thrilling about it, what's difficult?
MB: The thrill comes from never really know what is going on, and thinking you know the others but then always being surprised by new tracks. It can be quite up and down, which is exciting.
DS: Like, 'what the fuck are you playing?' [Laughs.]
MB: For us the whole performing thing is fun, we get more serious when we get to the studio. Our goal is really to develop the live show and make something special out of it. People have been playing back-to-back since the '90s, it's nothing new. It's fun, but..
MT: It's not the end of the road.
How far along is the album?
MT: Surprisingly, pretty far.
MB: We have a lot of songs. Almost eight complete demos that sound like real tracks. There's a lot of material but we now have to filter out what’s good and what’s not. We had a session two years ago in Barcelona for a couple of days, and I mean some good stuff came out but it just sounded too much like us, you know? Like what we already do. And we realised we wanted to take it much further than that, away from what our usual styles. Just like with the back-to-backs, every time we come together in the studio, which isn't that often, things are sounding better and better. That's not to say the first times were really bad you know, but with more experience things change.
So you're kind of building a Better Lost Than Stupid sound?
MT: That’s got to be the aim, and we're getting there. It will happen. We're very critical of each other so it takes time.
When you're in the studio are all three of you active at the same time?
DS: No we take turns. In, out. In, out.
MB: There’s only so much each of us can do without destroying the feel of the audio. We tried once, as a kind of rehearsal, everybody was throwing in sounds and after five minutes we had like 12 channels up and something that sounded like mash potatoes.
This week on the island
Phantasmagoria opening at Booom! Ibiza
The name, the concept, the promoters... Phantasmagoria was always going to sit outside of Ibiza's regular circuit. Marking a return for Mike and Claire Manumission, the party will run on Fridays in August, transforming Booom! into a smoky den of debauchery. Indeed, the club was given something of a makeover for last Friday's opening, kitted out with random vintage ornaments, a ten-foot screen and a small stage on the dance floor. When I entered, resident Craig Richards was doing an excellent job of capturing the vibe, flitting between sordid techno and classic Chicago house. At various intervals during his set he would be interrupted, often announced, by a different on-stage activity, all of which were arresting in their own weird way.
First came the faux-lesbian sex show, followed shortly after by an awkward, stop-start song and dance from Claire, and then, out of nowhere, a rendition of "Happy Birthday," complete with oversized cake. Meanwhile on stage, bygone pop outfit The Ting Tings were revealed as the special guests, presenting an hour of live drumming, vocals and house hits (Noir & Haze's "Changes," Blondie's "Heart Of Glass"). They were entertaining in parts, but their output ultimately felt too polished for the surroundings. To close, Derrick Carter skilfully cut his way through slice after slice of golden-era disco, including Sylvester's "You Make Me Feel Mighty Real," set to clips from Saturday Night Fever. As disjointed as it was, Friday night showed the kind of ambition that's so often lacking in Ibiza. Provided they sharpen the edges a little, Mike and Claire's sense of drama, combined with music from Mathew Jonson, Matthew Herbert and Ivan Smagghe, has the potential to set the scene alight.
Zoo Project at Gala Night
Last Saturday was a big night in Ibiza. Alongside the first of five DC-10 takeovers, Privilege, Cream and Radio One were gearing up for the biggest event of the summer, playing host to 10,000-plus revellers as part of the BBC's annual Ibiza weekender. Situated just up the San Antonio road, The Zoo Project was only going to benefit from the increased footfall, positioning itself as the ideal, open-air pre-party. Indeed, Gala Night was noticeably busy from early, as a sea of multi-coloured youth danced with vigour to the sounds of Ron Trent at the Treehouse.
The Chicago veteran was one of the season's standout bookings and he didn't disappoint. Spinning exuberant percussive house, punctuated by the odd classic (Marshall Jefferson's "Move Your Body"), Trent kept the vibes soulful and upbeat right through to Margaret Dygas. The P-Bar regular took the energy right down to begin with, before slowly building towards a crescendo via an impeccable trail of smoky, trippy deep house. Many of last Saturday's attendees would of ended up at Privilege, dancing the night away to the likes of Sasha and Steve Angello. The fact that two hours earlier that same crowd were getting down to the sounds of Trent and Dygas is what makes the Zoo so brilliantly unique.
VIVa Warriors at Sankeys
With the arrival of Tribal Sessions on the scene, there was talk of VIVa Warriors being knocked off top spot as Sankeys' principal breadwinner. On the contrary, Steve Lawler's bandana-clad posse have gone from strength, regularly breaking their own, and the club's, attendance records. To deal with increased footfall in July, the party has opened up The Lab, which last Sunday played host to the Italoboys and DJ Ralf. The veteran Italian has something of a cult following, and as a result the room was full all night, soundtracked by a mix of thick-edged techno and groovier house. Even Spektrum, which is famously difficult to fill, had a bit of a buzz about it.
In the Basement, meanwhile, Todd Terry had his hands full entertaining the wall-to-wall throng. Occupying every inch of the room, the young, British crowd danced feverishly to the US DJ's big, funky workouts, pausing only for a glug of water or a well-timed wolf-whistle. As you can imagine, Lil' Louis' "French Kiss" went down a storm. Steve Lawler picked up the reigns with remarkable ease, slotting seamlessly into a volley of low-ended club cuts. Keeping the vibe stripped back and upbeat throughout, he treated the baying audience to favourites old (Alcatraz's "Give Me Luv") and new (Zohki & Roozlee's "Satisfaction:). When people talk about Ibiza's success stories, it's always the same names: Carl Cox, Circoloco, Music On... Judging by Sunday, VIVa Warriors deserves to be mentioned in the same breath.
ENTER. - Igor Ribnik
Music On - David Pareja
Kehakuma + Elrow - Ana Ruiz
Carl Cox - Nel G Photography
All others - Tasya Menaker
For more information on what's happening on the island in 2014, check out our comprehensive Ibiza guide below.
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