Bali High

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Surfing in the mid to late ‘70s was a radical and fertile time in the counterculture’s history. Board design and fin set-ups were becoming smaller and more maneuverable as the so-called Shortboard Revolution busted into the forefront of surfing performance. Surfing also began to take itself more seriously in the mid ‘70s, and as a result, surf filmmaking flourished. The formula was similar across the spectrum: search for waves, find them, surf them, and record them. However it was the who, how and why that separated the memorable from the mediocre. As part of our ongoing Anthology Surf Archive series, Anthology Recordings is recognizing the classic 1981 underground film, Bali High, made by Stephen Spaulding in his early twenties. Although now a popular destination for many types of surfers, Bali in 1977 was still an untapped resource of waves. Spaulding was struck by its uncrowded tubes, towering volcanoes and rich Hindu culture. Spaulding would spend the next three years chasing waves from Indonesia to Kauai, filming now legendary surfers ― Rick Rasmussen, Peter McCabe, Tommy Carroll, and Larry Blair. The end result was Bali High, a preservation of this era of travel and adventure. From the ‘50s up until the early ‘80s, most surf film soundtracks were bootlegged straight from the director’s record collection without much thought given to licensing rights or fees. Filmmakers didn’t expect to screen outside of their niche, and were usually working on a shoestring budget. As was the case with Bali High, and Spaulding’s original soundtrack consisted of favorites from The Rolling Stones, Bob Marley, Santana, and The Police. But as the subculture gained commercial traction in the early ‘80s, Spaulding had to rethink how he’d be able to sell and screen the film legally without paying for song rights. For the 1984 re-release Spaulding sought out the help of Kauai based musician and producer Michael Sena to compose an original score that could match the action and vibe of his previous soundtrack. Unencumbered by the challenge of interpreting a compilation of various artists into one fluid body of music, Sena wrote, produced, and recorded each song himself in just three months. The resulting 26 tracks lend the film its signature flavor. In the opening scene we hear a booming chorus of female vocalists singing “Bali High!” over thumping bongos and wild guitar riffs. From there the soundtrack covers an impressive amount of genres, featuring moments of folk, dubby rock, synthesized disco, tropicalia, jazz fusion, hyper-tempo power rock, soft rock, and acid rock. Spaulding and Sena’s collaboration leave us with a layered time capsule in surf history, and Anthology Recordings is proud to present the first issue of this colorful soundtrack.

This product was added to our catalog on Saturday 20 June, 2015.

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