The birth of our underground brand, Factory 93, not only brought on an adrenaline rush reminiscent of the renegade warehouse era of raving—on which Insomniac was founded—but it also had us thinking back to all the people, places, and parties that made this whole operation possible. And with that came a burning desire to crack open our collection and dust off the classic records we couldn’t live without. Through our From the Crate series, we’ll be breaking out seminal and obscure cuts alike, imparting some knowledge in the process.
As of late March, the Top 10 tracks on Beatport by Energy 52—the duo of Berlin trance producers Cosmic Baby (Harald Blüchel) and Paul M (Paul Schmitz-Moormann)—are all remixes of “Café del Mar.” This is hardly a surprise: “Café del Mar” has been reissued, remixed, reconfigured, and revived more times than nearly any dance track you could name.
At the top of the song’s Discogs master listing are the names of no fewer than 33 acts who’ve officially remixed the tune between 1993 and 2012, some of them more than once. Far from overexposing the track, those updates just made “Café del Mar” more popular. In 2001, Mixmag’s readers voted it the top track of all time, and Pete Tong’s listeners did the same in 2011.
Paul M (aka Kid Paul) was a DJ who produced, while Cosmic Baby was a musician and composer before he got the dance music bug. “I got my first drum machine at the age of 14,” he told Massive in 1994. “Then it was a very short step to techno music, which came to Germany in 1987 or 1988.” His 1994 “Loops of Infinity” was a German Top 30 hit. The pair met in 1989 while at a club where Paul M was spinning records.
The following summer, the two of them took a trip together to Ibiza. They were especially taken with Café del Mar, an outdoor eatery on the Mediterranean with stunning sunsets, a high-end menu, and staff-selected music—downtempo and the like, as showcased on the Café del Mar compilation series beginning in 1999.
“In autumn 1992, Paul returned from another Ibiza vacation,” Cosmic Baby told interviewer Detlef Buske in 2005. “He told me about a certain piece he listened [to] at the Café del Mar he was electrified by”—“Struggle for Pleasure,” a 1983 piece by Belgian minimalist composer Wim Mertens. “Between September and December, we worked,” Cosmic Baby said. “Our common goal: every entire detail of the piece [was] supposed to become ‘excellent’—no ‘that’s already okay’ compromises to be made.”
The record was finished in January of 1993, with each producer getting his own mix on each side of the 12-inch. The “DJ Kid Paul Mix” was day-glo hypnotic, with the string pads evoking the sunrise midway through, and “Cosmic Baby’s Impression” a slower build with a straighter techno feel. The pair began talking with Eye Q, at the time Germany’s premier trance label; according to Cosmic Baby, the label issued the 12-inch without permission.
“We went to court; the record had to be withdrawn from the shops. A big dilemma for us: The piece became the anthem right after being played by the DJs for the first time. The people couldn’t buy the record, though.”
It didn’t matter—the original 12-inch never left DJs’ decks. It also began showing up on compilations, such as Logic Trance 2, a 1994 release in Germany and a 1995 one in the States. By the time Hamburg label Superstition gave the record a proper issue in 1997 with some new mixes added on, “Café del Mar” was already a cult classic. Typically, latter-day remixes of established tracks don’t live beyond their moment. That didn’t happen with “Café del Mar”—in fact, the opposite did.
Nearly every upload of the song on YouTube with “Original” after the title is the Three ‘N One radio edit from 1997. Sharam Jey (Sharam Nickjey Khososi) and André Strässer had formed Three ‘N One a year earlier. Their long mix would open with a distended version of the track’s core riff, slowed down and spread out, outlining the tune’s parameters before bringing in the full Wim Mertens melody line to fill in the open spaces. It’s not the first or only dance record to use this trick—just one of the most broadly effective.
The other remixers who’ve taken on “Café del Mar” could fill the next two months’ worth of From the Crate installments. Trance versions alone would dominate the late ‘90s and early 2000s. Also in 1997, Oliver Lieb offered a string-filled, dewy-eyed progressive trance version, while Nalin & Kane’s straight-rush take from 1998, with the tune’s arpeggiations almost percussive, is nearly as big a floor-filler as Three ‘N One’s. The latter, in fact, remixed it again in 2002, adding some swirling white noise, upping the tempo, and brightening the overall feel. And Deepsky’s 1999 version is speedier, blurrier, and more grinding—precisely the same way the parties were becoming.
Trance producers are far from the only ones who’ve gotten their hands on this track over the years, either. In 1998, Hybrid offered—that’s right—an acid-breaks remix, while in 2006 K-Klass mixed a house version; neither is definitive. Deadmau5’s 2008 remix is surprisingly loyal to the original tune, building on its contours rather than overhauling the structure, and it’s one of his loveliest pieces. As for Ricardo Villalobos’s 2011 deconstruction, a barely recognizable version of the tune burbles in very slowly over nearly 10 minutes, just as you’d expect.