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Beats in the Balearic: PSNE goes to Ibiza

PSNE spent two days in the clubs of Ibiza this summer. Nick Beck introduces the island to those who should know better, while Dave Robinson stands dangerously close to some subwoofers.

For a number of years now I have had a fondness for the ‘White Island’, known to the Spanish inhabitants as Eivissa, writes Nick Beck.

This idyllic Balearic Island annually plays host to some of the biggest name DJs, club franchises and dance labels the world has to offer. The result is a mecca for hedonists to indulge in loud electronic music, visit a selection of the cutting-edge superclubs, bask in the Mediterranean sun, and raise a Pavlovian cheer as the planes fly over the sunset terrace at Space.

The dynamics of Ibiza have changed dramatically over the years, with the biggest changes in the past 15 or so. Images of DJs are still plastered on the billboards, but they sit side-by-side with bands and solo artists as clubs tap into the ever-growing live music scene. No longer can you skip out of Space at 6am on Monday morning after We Love Sundays (the signature night at the venue) and head straight to DC-10 for Circo Loco. Local and national authorities have clamped down on the island’s 24-hour party schedule, while nightclubs are under huge pressure to ensure laws are not broken… but still the revellers return in their millions for the four-month season from June to September.

I first visited the island in 2005 in my early ’20s and stayed on Bora Bora beach in the infamous Jet Apartments. Electronic music was continuous throughout the day and night and staying at Jet meant there was no relief from the beats. However, government rulings now prevent bars, clubs and even small cafes playing music between the hours of 6am and 4.30pm outside. Terraces and open spaces have to keep the noise right down after midnight.

On the PSNE trip, Hugo Quintanilla (pictured) of Pro Audio London ushered us into the Space Main Room before it opened to the public, and gave us a demonstration of what Funktion One and great design can offer. With only five bodies in the entire room to absorb the sound, the output of the subwoofers can only be described as terrifying. Rib cages rattled, vital organs bounced around the body, and eardrums shuddered along to the bass. It’s the sort of torture I could get used to! Later that evening, with a room full and Tensnake providing outstanding electro, the real performance of the Funktion One system, along with the Ibizan ambiance, delivered bliss to many a sun-kissed tourist.

Once upon time, you would walk out onto the main road separating Space with Bora Bora beach, flag down a cab and head straight to DC-10. Circo Loco, a famous club night which used to occupy a residency at the End in London, would get going and keep the bones rattling throughout the day. The music would become more aggressive, with less melody and more bleeps, the atmosphere more eccentric and electric with an element of ‘craziness’ thrown into the mix.

Nothing has changed apart from the opening times. Nicknamed the ‘people’s club’ according to Eric Robertson of Ibiza PA, a prolonged closure in 2009 (for reasons you can find elsewhere) made DC-10 stronger, and the new Void System is fitting to the club’s appearance (they’re both crimson red, you see).

Circo Loco on a Monday offers wild fancy dress, animal balloons, large sunglasses and turns the old finca (farmhouse) into a haven for people who want to dance and only dance (the fact that there are no chairs anywhere in the club proves that!). As PSNE discovered, the Void Acoustics subs built into the walls shake the room, as well as its contents. In a venue not designed to be a club and providing tricky sound issues, the installation has without question made more than the best of its surroundings. Acoustic foam liberally spread over the ceiling enhances the unbelievable electronic experience, and with Clive Henry providing the music the landing planes are just a sight for your sore ears.

More laws will follow, no doubt; clubs will have to fall in line and the government will continue to reap a rather large income during the summer. But whatever befalls the White Island, dance music enthusiasts will always call Ibiza home, whether it is for four days, four months or forever.

Space, Sunday night

As one of the most famous nightclubs on the planet, the audio quality at Space Ibiza is always under intense scrutiny, writes Dave Robinson.

The huge venue, in the Playa den Bossa area of Ibiza Town, is a temple to Funktion One. An association that stretches back over a decade means Tony Andrews’ designs almost fill the place. The local installer is Pro Audio London: David Cole (no stranger to many in the industry) working alongside Ibiza-based Hugo Quintanilla.

PAL – seven years working with Space – has just fitted out the ‘Premier Etage’, an open-air roof terrace where PSNE tended to gravitate on our visit! The F1 system comprises four R1.5s and a couple of F118 subs, governed and powered by an F60 four-channel amp plus MC2 E45 and an X02 controller respectively. White covers for the system were made locally.

But it’s in the Main Room where the bad boys lurk. A Funktion One R9 + F221 system has done sterling service since 2007, receiving much acclaim from clubbers and DJs alike. Recently the club had a brand new, bespoke Funktion One hybrid sound system installed, completed with an XTA DP548 controller to give it a completely transparent front end.

“This upgrade was all about the audio quality,” says Dave Cole. “Everything about it is solely focused on the very best quality, from input right through to output. Space caters for many thousands of clubbers each year and we want them to go away knowing that there’s a very good reason for it being arguably the most famous club in the world – because it is the best club in the world!”

It’s a system to marvel at: per side, that’s four DS15 cabs flown in a line; four R3sh flown underneath in a 2 x 2 format; one R1.5sh at the rear for VIP fill. (R3sh is a skeletal version of the Resolution 3 box, only introduced in the past few months.) There are more R3sh units employed as rear fill and rear delay, making sure every inch of the room is covered. And of course, there’s the huge slab of 2 x 3 F221 powered bass cabs under the DJ booth.

The DP548 – suggested to Cole by Funktion One’s John Newsham – replaces the DP226s and D2 equaliser. The 548 adds a frequency conscious compressor to the front end, without another stage of audio conversion.

With a monitor system controlled by an XTA DP448 and powered by two MC2 E45’s and one E25 MC2 amplifiers, Cole says praise for the new system is even higher than for the old.

“We have continual compliments on how it sounds,” he says. “In fact, every comment we’ve heard has been positive.”

DC-10, Monday night

“A few years ago, a lot of the clubs didn’t care about quality of the sound; then peoples’ expectations got much higher because of what they hear in their own homes. So all the clubs have been upping their game.”

So says Andy Kayll, in-house sound engineer at DC-10, a club on the outskirts of Ibiza Town. You are frequently reminded of this converted farm building’s proximity to the island’s airport as an aircraft of some kind passes directly overhead every five minutes. (The venue is not the site of a crashed McDonnell Douglas plane, as one apocryphal story suggests.)

DC-10 certainly upped its game when, under Kayll’s guidance, the owner installed a Void Acoustics system in the main room in May 2010. An anonymous Spanish-made system was stripped out and eight distinctive Air Motion mid-his, along with six Stasys subwoofers, were installed. Two Air 10s, “bring it all together”. (A second room contains another nameless Spanish PA – this may be upgraded at some point, but there are no firm plans right now.)

The AirMotion system matches the general décor of the DC-10 main room, though no one is quite sure which came first, the Void colour scheme or the room’s revamp (it used to be yellow). Extensive foam treatment to the roof earlier in the year has seriously improved the general acoustic to boot.

Kayll started at the club 12 years previously, when the Circa Loco night first began. “Back then this was all open air…” he begins as a large passenger jet drowns him out. “Three walls at the end of an open building, and six Turbosound boxes.” The club itself dates back to around 1990. It has a reputation of being “the people’s club”, as it would open on a Monday for the locals, when other venues were closed.

Kayll opines that it’s a shame the way the laws concerning clubbing have evolved on the island: the Labour government are “always using sound levels and partying as a stick to hit people with”. For the last decade or so, all the open/outdoor spaces have been forced to stop playing music after midnight.

The Void system was purchased from Eric Robertson, who runs IbizaPA, a creative event business as well as being the Void distributor for Spain. Kayll was played heard a demo of half a IbizaPA Void rig and was sold on it, he says. He recalls how the whole deal was a typical stupidly fast turnaround affair: order to install in seven days.

“We were still plugging it in on the morning it was to go live,” says Robertson. He came to Ibiza half a dozen years ago with his singer/entertainer wife. The couple needed a PA rig, and someone hooked them up with Void. “I bought a rig; and liked it so much, I asked if I could represent them in some way and they said yes. And in recent times things have gone quite ballistic for Void here.”

In addition to DC-10, a recent installation includes the prestigious Amanti beach club. “The owner tried different things and things didn’t work out…” says Robertson before the helicopter rotors stymie him. “…because it was a bit DIY.

“Now he’s got little Indigo 6 speakers, hidden behind the bamboo, and sprayed to the colour of his choice, so people like Kylie can chill out down there… He gets a three year warranty with it too, so he’s spent a little bit more but he gets that piece of mind.”

Other wins include Bora Bora and Sankey’s (a nascent venture under the Manchester club franchise). “It’s tough opening a new club…” Another helicopter. “It’s tough, this island is very competitive, if you are coming from outside the island and you don’t know it, you have to be patient, you have to work at it, and if you do, you will make it. People come and people go here.”

System hire is another part of IbizaPA’s business. “You’d be amazed at how many people want to hire a system for their villa – DJs and VIPs – they want a reasonably large monitor system to test out material, or somewhere they can bring their friends back.

Final question: what about the state of PA/club sound on the island?

“I would love someone to grant a new licence and build the perfect room on here,” says Robertson. “That would be amazing.”

Kayll nods in agreement, as a private jet has us all laughing at the ridiculousness of doing an interview here. “All of the venues over here date back to the ’70s; none of them have been built specifically as clubs. They were built to be pretty, with speaker placement as an afterthought.

“If we could just get them to knock some of them down,” smiles Robertson, “and rebuild with some round corners…” (for XTA)