VA: Isla Blanca 2013
There are some fabulous cuts on this summer compilation from Thirty5 Records, presented in both a twelve-track format and as a continuous mix by label manager Landmark. Born in 2011, the Italy-based label releases a broad range of music, with a heavy emphasis on tech-house, techno, and deep house, all of which are represented in generous amounts on Isla Blanca 2013. In preparing the eighty-six-minute release, Landmark selected the label's best releases to date and supplemented them with four new tracks.
In addition to featuring one of his own tracks in the set (a wiry, bass-thudding Chiqito remix of “Underground Civilization”), Landmark remixes four others, one of which is the superb opening cut, Dani Hageman's “Now You're Calling” featuring Fab Morvan (presumably the one-time Milli Vanilla member). Perhaps the collection's best argument for Thirty5 Records' sound, Landmark's “Open Air Version” of Hageman's track is an entrancing house jam whose slinky groove and dreamy “I've been waiting / I wonder if you've made up your mind” vocal hook lodge themselves into your cranium after a single listen. Hageman's seven minutes of sultry bliss are a hard act to follow, but a Landmark and Kres remix of Lowboys' “The Blue Sky” rises to the occasion with another of the release's standouts. The tune's funky pulse is appealing, but it's bettered by a repeating vocal line (“No one gives me love like you do / Tell me that you're feeling it, too”) that gives the track a deep house twist and makes it all the more enticing.
If there's a downside to frontloading the release with such strong openers, it's that doing so makes what comes after seem secondary by comparison. As if to counter that impression, a few surprises surface in the tracks that follow, foremost among them the New jack swing of Luca M and JUST2's “Le chanteur de rues,” a steamy cut that revives distant memories of late-‘80s Teddy Riley productions, and DJ PP and Gabriel Rocha's “Taj Mahal,” which, not surprisingly, drapes sinuous, Arabian-flavoured flute playing across its hammering, percussion-heavy groove. Landmark's dub mix of Kres's “Word Up Vs Hold Back” (recently played by Magda at ENTER in Ibiza) also catches one's ear for its tripped-out vocal treatments and acidy vibe, while Loui Fernandez brings the funk to his swinging closer “Avant.”
If there's one thing Thirty5 Records' tracks share, it's an undeniably high production standard. Anything but slapdash, the material is polished, with each track marked by exceptional attention to detail in arrangement and sound design. The artists involved also treat melody and rhythm as equally important aspects of a production, which, more often than not, results in material that's memorable as opposed to merely functional.