Best Albums of 2019: Various Artists ‘Cafe Del Mar Dreams X/10’

Cafe Del Mar Dreams X/10 (Cafe Del Mar Music)

What happened to Cafe Del Mar, I hear you ask? The Balearic compilation series that pretty much invented chillout music for sunsets – one of the original pillars of 90’s ambient dance music – is strangely faceless these days. Original DJ’s Jose Padilla and Bruno Lepetre departed long ago. While the albums and online radio channels remain popular, tracklists from the annual comps are patchy at best, flat-out bland at worst, or just recycle good but overly-familiar tunes. Very few reviewers and zines even bother mentioning a new CDM release anymore. So it makes me very happy to have stumbled upon this substantial but little-noticed return to form, coming not from the main series but one of the sub-series called Cafe Del Mar Dreams, started back in 2000 by cafe co-founder Ramon Guiral.

Cafe Del Mar Dreams X/10 combines all the ingredients that made the early CDM comps great. It pulls together fresh and/or obscure tunes in a genuine variety of downtempo styles – trip hop, lounge, Flamenco, bossa nova, ambient pop – while recognising a common trait: a warm, elevating Balearic glow. It leans towards instrumentals, resisting the pull of a mainstream that blindly insists on music having vocals with lyrics because reasons. And the vocal songs that are included here are very good. These include a new one from ambient popsters Flunk, a sweet and faithful cover of Marcos Valle’s bossa nova classic “Samba De Verao”, and a proto-Balearic gem from 1982 by French-Belgian band Antena called “Camino Del Sol”. The latter is a striking synthpop/bossa nova hybrid, locating the origins of the Cafe Del Mar sound at yet another surprising point in the distant pre-90’s past.

Cafe Del Mar Dreams X/10 is bafflingly credited to no one, an approach that’s become increasingly common with CDM product over last two decades. But regardless, this one is special. So to whoever put it together –  whether DJ, committee, or chill bot – it’s big sun-kissed kudos from me.

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