“I have always wanted to release few records – but the right ones; and having the means to care for every detail, starting with the artwork and the visual aspects.”
For PHILIPPE COHEN SOLAL of GOTAN PROJECT it is quality not quantity: “I have always wanted to release few records – but the right ones; and having the means to care for every detail, starting with the artwork and the visual aspects.” This is also part of the ¡YA BASTA! touch. Each cover, flyer and video evades cliché with a specific signature based on the elegantly oblique eye of visual artist Prisca Lobjoy.
This eclecticism has placed the crew above the rest and secured their domination of European charts. Their contemporaries include Kruder & Dorfmeister, UFO, Patrick Forge, Thievery Corporation, Gilles Peterson… “We always felt more in line with London than with Paris.” In fact the label initially attracted support in the UK, which is often more open to genres which are not so easily classified. “I always wanted to include music from the entire world, but never tried to make fusions like ‘world music’.” Musical influences on each record are cautiously measured to create an unprecedented mixture – to paraphrase the name of their publishing house – of science and melody.
“At ¡YA BASTA!, we are into composing, not just recycling. We really wanted to create our own universe. Gotan could not have consisted only of covers. We only did a few, and each time, they were just vague milestones”, like Frank Zappa’s Chunga’s Revenge on Gotan Project’s first album. Solal also plays with cover versions on his solo album The Moonshine Sessions.
As for the future: “Instead of trying to grow in size, I’d prefer to isolate the label… at least to others. I’d like to make it my laboratory of ideas, without getting headaches. This does not mean I’m against collaborations, on the contrary”. ¡YA BASTA! is definitely consistent with its roots in the Zapatista movement’s notion of negative growth theory.
“There’s no scheme, and especially no marketing strategies. I’m just naive enough to believe that if a record is good, the word will spread. I’m counting on everyone’s curiosity.” And so ¡YA BASTA! emerged, in the mid-90’s, “with reference to sub commander Marcos of course, but also to say ‘Enough! now for something else!’ to the techno-house scene, which was becoming repetitive- copying itself”, so explains PHILLIPE COHEN SOLAL, the label’s founder, an artist and music lover who’s frustration became curiosity, which became yearning, which finally came to manifest itself in ¡YA BASTA! Records.
PHILIPPE COHEN SOLAL started off as a DJ on independent radio stations, before becoming an A n R director at Polydor for three years. He stood out in the first wave of French electronic music at the turn of the 90s on the “Paris Union Recording” compilation, before producing a techno-house album titled “Bass Academy”, which was never released.
He then joined Virgin Sound “in order to pay off some debts – becoming one of the most important music supervisors of his generation :“… I became a producer and publisher by chance. I’ve seen too many major record labels ruining artist’s careers. If I’d have met the right person, I wouldn’t have been there. Putting a label together takes time.” Time is of great importance at ¡YA BASTA!, a label with its own unique style, thanks to Solal’s eclectic taste, which includes producers from Chicago and Detroit to the Sound Factory Essentials, the cut-and-pasting of the British acid house scene to Kip Hanrahan, taking in along the way minimalist electronica with outlandish vocals.
He has “the means to do production without pressure or compromise”, even if that means working in parallel or peripheral universes: from feature films to documentaries, from advertising to fashion, while developing his own rather down-tempo and Latin-obsessed rhythms. Exactly what everyone else is doing these days, you might think, but as Solal explains: “in 1995, only a few people were doing this. But fashion soon caught up.”
Solal’s alter ego in most projects, Christoph H Müeller, is a musician who came from the Swiss electronic scene, where he had already had an underground hit in 1987 under the name ‘Touch El Arab’. In Solal’s words: “A fine musician, with true taste, sensitivity with sound and knowledge of machines. Christoph’s cool restraint harmonises my hyperactive side…”
They share a desire to create cinematic music that makes wants to dance and think. Together, they created the ¡Ya Basta ! Crew, a multiple personality containing Boyz From Brazil, Stereo Action Unlimited, Fruit Of The Loop…who’s sound is brought together in the first compilation of the “Rue Martel” label, which enjoyed more than critical success with its “Hi-Fi Trumpet”, an instant classic.
After a handful of remixes and tracks on vinyl, they released the next chapter of their adventures under the alias “The Boyz From Brazil”… before they rolled up their sleeves once more and created Gotan Project with guitarist Eduardo Makaroff, an Argentinian living in Paris.
Aided by the expertise of bandoneon player Nini Flores, pianist and arranger Gustavo Beytelmann and violinist Line Kruse, the team surrendered to the more melancholic side of Argentinean tango and evoked Astor Piazzolla and Carlos Gardel in their inspired tango. “But we also looked into parallel repertoires like milongas, waltzes, and above all we worked on more rural rhythms like the chacarera…” A few limited edition 10” singles secured the improbable success of this nuevo tango on dance floors worldwide, despite initial doubts from some quarters.
Since then, more releases have established ¡YA BASTA! at the forefront of its genre.