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Cafe del Mar Vol. 23 Review

Cafe del Mar Vol. 23 Review ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

So, I finally (6 weeks after release) managed to get my hands on a copy of Volume XXIII.

Cafe del Mar Music has been producing chill-out albums for a long time. A really, really long time. The first release of Volume I was back in 1994, which is a year I remember most for being a bit scared of Diego Maradona at the FIFA World Cup and discovering Green Day’s seminal pop-punk album Dookie.

Don’t judge me too harshly, I was 13 at the time and had just discoveredvolume 23 cover distortion pedals. Thankfully, musical taste evolves with age, experience, and exposure to disappointing pop-punk concept albums about the president being bad.

In any case, I can be grateful for the role the music of Cafe del Mar played in improving the accompanying soundtrack from Calo des Moro all the way to the council estates of Yorkshire.

If you were making a playlist to soundtrack your life, wouldn’t there be some moments that dovetail with chill-out? We all have those songs that are inextricably linked with moments in time. Have you ever thought about what songs would go on the film score in the movie about you? Your heroic moments might be backed by Eye of The Tiger. It’s almost involuntary, how we collate these songs into a soundtrack. It seems like Cafe del Mar records are genetically coded to weave their way into our lived experience.

Cafe del Mar Volume 23 brings the atmosphere to the fore. As you would expect from a double album with soundscape luminaries such as the Cinematic OrchestraBrian Eno and Bonobo on board, the layers are soporific, weaving sweetly to create an otherworldly new reality. 

Cafe del Mar Volume 1-23 and on…

After so many albums we might be forgiven for assuming that the series would cafe del mar volume 1get stale. Granted, the archetypal Balearic sound was more evident on earlier albums like Volumen Ocho or Cinco, but this is at least down to our nostalgia. The times they are a changing, and like every other genre of music in history, chill-out is not immune. Archetypes become archetypes for a reason, after all.

This is a good thing.

Staid obedience to giving the crowd what we *think* they want has led humanity to baffling decisions. Producing a road version of the Jaguar XJ220, for example. KISS making a disco record in 1979, which sure, was a commercial success but… it’s disco.

There are other examples I’m sure. The point is that it is not 1998. The same advancements in production technology that make Adam Beyer sound like he’s from the future are also changing chill-out music. There is a reason why dance songs from the 1990s sound so dated. We are simply so far advanced from the technology used back then.

For the non-electronic tracks on Volumen Vienti-Tres the loudness war is over, and this has led to higher density, movie-score layers of sound that delight the senses. Zero 7’s Last Light is gloriously recorded and through a good sound system the depth is really apparent. You can say this about every track on the Cafe del Mar Volume 23 album, in all honesty.

A double album is a rare thing these days– one might even say a risky move. Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips once said “[A] double album. Just this idea that you can weave a couple of themes into there and you can sprawl a little bit.”

I don’t know if this idea was in Toni Simonen’s mind when he cut this record, but it pleases me to think that it was. Thematically we always have Cafe del Mar as a concept, underpinning the music itself. There’s still a lot of space to explore ideas and sound within the chillout genre, and Cafe del Mar Volume 23 brings a luscious ocean of sound to dive into.

Top marks!

Cafe del Mar Volume 23 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

You can get your copy of Cafe del Mar Volume 23 here.


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