- Mark Barrott has spent most of the last five years working in the shadows. As the label-head for International Feel, arguably the finest purveyor of retro-leaning Balearic music around, he's assembled one of the finest and most consistent catalogues of sandy-toed rock, aerial lite-disco and fleecy electronic music of the era. Whether culling from the sunset delights of acts like Rocha, Maxxi & Zeus, Coyote and Bubble Club, or the weirdo-beardo boogie of DJ Harvey's Locossolus project, Barrott has honed his label's aesthetic for beach playlists, lengthening evenings and healing sunburns.
The last couple of years have seen Barrott's own musical projects stride to the forefront of his label. Early last year, he delivered Mendicant Adventures, an EP of deconstructed krautrock and simmering ambience under the name Sonic Aesthetic. Later that year, he returned with his first Sketches From An Island EP. That one found Barrott blending contemplative guitar, hazy late-summer grooves and quiet, birdsong synth-craft, and was followed earlier this year by Sketches From An Island 2.
Now Barrott returns under his own name with the Sketches From An Island LP. Rearranging the two EPs to better suit the format and adding a new finale, Barrott's crafted the kind of heat-stroke Balearic that might have been pulled from the sands at any point over the last 40 years of the genre's development. Sketches From An Island exudes a quiet grace throughout its 50-minute runtime that evokes the soft cerulean glow of Ibiza, where Barrott's made his home. There are little bits to shake the hips and loosen up the muscles, like the polyester boogie of opener "Baby Come Home." But for the most part, Barrott's is music to pillow your head with. The tumbling hand drums and slow, fever-dream guitar-picking of "Go Berri Be Happy" have a subtle jubilance to them, as do the astral synthesizers and bird-song glow of "Dr. Nimm's Garden Of Intrigue And Delight." The silver-tinged guitar playing and distant drum knocks of "Essene," meanwhile, seem to flutter more than they soar.
The album finds it centerpiece in the six-minute "Deep Water," arguably Barrott's finest creation to date. This one opens with the pink-sky tones of dawn, pattering hand drums, a flute melody and a new age piano line that hums with a patient, blissful blur. As the piano slowly gains speed and synths hover overhead, time begins to dissolve, the way it does lying flat under the first cloudless day of the spring.
As Sketches From An Island moves toward its finale—the far-away slide guitar, sounds of ocean surf and twinkling synthesizers of "Back To The Sea"—Barrott withdraws almost completely with the birds and piano of "Sacred Islands." It's a poignant final look at this sonic snapshot Barrott's so deftly created, and one that nods to the timeless ease of his vision.
01. Baby Come Home
02. Dr Nimm's Garden Of Intrigue & Delight
03. Go Berri Be Happy
05. Formentera Headspace Blues (Pts. 1 & 2)
06. Deep Water
07. Island Life
08. Back To The Sea
09. Sacred Islands