The Strange And Frightening World Of . . . Fabric's First 100
, March 8th, 2010 07:57
To celebrate the recent 100th release from Fabric (that's 50 each for its live and mix series) we look back on some of their best mixes. There's a bundle of ten albums up for grabs too
Happy 100th birthday to one of our favourite sources of mix albums! Our writers have selected their personal favourites for your perusal, in order of release. . .
Plump DJs (Fabriclive.08)
While time hasn’'t been excessively kind to everyone dealing in breakbeat, Plump DJs have remained consistently brilliant party starters and still blow walls out to this day. (Lee Rous and Andy Gardner still throw parties in small rooms like the one above the Old Queens Head on Islington's Essex Road, as well as more conventional venues such as Fabric or Matter.) Taking sped-up New York instrumental hip hop, early Chemical Brothers tracks, hardcore and tweaking second wave acid as their jumping off point, the Plumps - along with Stanton Warriors, Hybrid, Rasmus and Tipper - were producing monumental nights out in the late 90s and early noughties, while armchair observers whined about big beat and Bently Rhythm Ace. This mix isn’t quite as good as either their Mixmag cover CD Elastic Breaks or their debut mix A Plump Night Out but it does build punishingly to Patrick Cowley’s mix of ‘I Feel Love’, thrown in as a serotonin-burst sop to those still standing. For me, this was the soundtrack to a three-day stag weekend conducted in the confines of a bunkhouse in Llanberis, North Wales that concluded with 15 pot-bellied men on crystal meth who had been awake for three days swimming out to a sandbank in the Menai Straits in their underwear, carrying bottles of champagne. That it doesn’t remind me of a harsh experience in a Welsh Coroner’s Court some time later is an added bonus.
Michael Mayer (Fabric13)
Mayer's 2003 mix has remained one of the series' most popular, and seven years down the line it still feels impeccably put together. It captures the mood of the time and place of its release like a well-posed snapshot, representing labels Punkt and the excellent Playhouse alongside Kompakt's Superpitcher, Magnet and Heiko Voss. Villalobos' 'Easy Lee' forms a centrepiece of sorts, its bubbly, minimal tread and sweetly moody vocodered vocal a synthesis of all the tracks that sfeed into and out of it; Richard Davis' 'Bring Me Closer' and 'In The Air' are similarly insistent, with a kind of tentacular pull and grip. The Immer mixes for Kompakt, the first of which preceded this Fabric one by a year or so, have a more edgy, rigourous beauty that's hard to beat, but as ever, Mayer proves more than adept at conjuring up microhouse's most addictive illusion, that of being suspended in time and caught in the blissful, hypnotic moment.
Andrew Weatherall (Fabric19)
A jaunty stroll through the pleasure gardens of warm and analogue-sounding electro with former Sabre Of Paradise and remixer to the stars, Mr Weatherall. The cheeky slamming together of Sexual Harrassment’s ‘I Need A Freak’ with The Egyptian Lover’s ‘Freak’, indicates this is no time for smoke-belching contemplation. The bins are ripped off your ears and you're propelled toward an underlit shape-throwing chamber by a number of tweaking dark funk numbers that soon squelch with the full might of Mr Roland’s many knobbed boxes thanks to DJT’s ‘Time Out (Acid Dub)’. Then the acid is with us for the duration, by way of electro, IDM and techno. Trends for mix CDs come and go but I’d still be overjoyed if I went to a house party and heard either this or Ewan Pearson’s Fabric mix on a good stereo.
Ellen Allien (Fabric34)
There's only one off-note sounded in Ellen Allien's Fabric mix, when Thom Yorke's 'Harrowdown Hill' flops down for a bit of a moan amid an otherwise near-perfect sonic universe. But it's a move typical of the idiosyncratic, genre-hopping Bpitch label boss, whose own compositions can be as lyrical and evocative as her DJ sets are hard-edged and extreme. This mix is a nicely syncretic blend of the two, slightly nostalgic in feel, with blissed, insistent tracks from Estroe and Don Williams tinged by darker, dreamier matter from Cobblestone Jazz and Mika Vainio under his Ø guise. Allien eschews standard builds and drops in favour a more musicianly and emotive journey through timbre and texture, yet her intelligence is a responsive, generous one, keeping the listener guessing but never leaving them unsatisfied.
Ewan Pearson (Fabric35)
I’ve never been a fan of dancing. Since the first time I tried, when I was asked by the party host if I needed a doctor, I’ve had a deep-seated phobia of letting my ass even tremble, let alone shake. I make an exception for Ewan Pearson, though. Ever since I met the gentleman DJ in Berlin in 2004, when he led me on an unforgettably merry three-day dance across the city, I’ve watched his career closely: the production jobs with Delphic and M83, the remixes of Depeche Mode and Junior Boys, his work with Al Usher under the name Partial Arts (in particular the eleven minute ‘Telescope’), and of course his escapades as a DJ.
Fabric 35 showcases Pearson’s enviable understanding of melodic narrative, tension, repetition, drama and rhythm, as well as a belief in music as transcendent celebration. His passion is for electro, house and the contemporary minimal techno sound of Berlin, but his choices are timeless, intended both as a durable document of the era and a musical journey that draws upon his understanding of club culture through the ages. His aim, he told Resident Advisor, is simply to “find the stuff that moves me and try and make it work”. He succeeds.
There’s no point-scoring here, no reliance on crowbarring in rare white labels. Instead there’s a slow but confident build from Ata and Sasse’s mix of Jahcoozi’s sultry ‘Ali McBills’ to the understated sound of Snax’s ‘Honeymoon’s Over (Konrad Black Mix)’ on to Simon Baker’s lush ‘Plastik’. He even drops Liquid Liquid’s playful ‘Bellhead’ in there, before culminating with a blend of Carl Craig’s rerub of Beanfield’s ‘Tides’ and Aril Brikha’s ‘Berghain’. If I’m gonna dance, I’m gonna dance with Ewan Pearson.
Ricardo Villalobos (Fabric 36)
Some musicians just have a knack for creating those “Fuck me, what the hell was that?” moments. Ricardo Villalobos is one of them. Stuck in the Secret Sundaze tent at London’s annual Lovebox fest a few years ago, I witnessed the Chilean-German DJ-producer suddenly introduce the sound of mournful, Serbian gypsy horns into a set that until that point stuck to his trademark brand of minimal techno. Gobsmacked, all I could do was stand there and watch as the weekend revellers gyrated to horns that were dirgelike yet somehow uplifting (hear it for yourself on 2006’s two-track, 72-minute Fizheuer Zieheuer).
Villalobos' 2007 entry into the Fabric series is chock-full of his signature “Fuck me!” moments. More than just a well-mixed glimpse into a DJ’s record box, Fabric 36 is a proper artist album, featuring only tracks made by Villalobos himself. From the analogue jazz rhythms of ‘Perc and Drums’ to the Taiko beatbox freak-out of ‘Andruic and Japan’, it’s a record defined by the man's gift for working abstract ideas into a throbbing minimal and microhouse framework without losing the most important thing of all: momentum. An album for the chin-strokers AND the arm-throwers, it’s a trick few ever pull off and Villalobos does it here with leftfield charm to spare.
James Murphy & Pat Mahoney (Fabriclive.36)
For all the eclecticism and punk-dance crossover associated with their name, the DFA crew know what works when. And what works on the dancefloor is pure disco, an apt oxymoron to capture what you think you’re hearing here. In fact, just about every permutation gets a spin: old (GQ) and new (Daniel Wang); mainstream (Chic) and mutant (ZE’s Was (Not Was) and Gichy Dan); live (Donald Byrd) and electronic (Baby Oliver); smooth (Mouzon’s Electric Band) and hectic (City of Women, Jimi Tenor and free jazz drummer Edward Vesala’s partnership); histrionic (Lenny Williams) and understated (LCD Soundsystem’s own ‘Hippie Priest Bum-Out’); celebrated (Peech Boys) and obscure (Punkin’ Machine); forward-looking (JT) and retrospective (Babytalk) meeting in the middle. But the coup is, you won’t notice which is which; you’ll be too busy dancing.
Omar S (Fabric 45)
Not only does Omar S make hypnotically hallucinatory house music heaven, he also seems like a bona fide party guy. Go and find some interviews with him where he answers suggestions that, in making his first official mix CD a showcase for his own tracks exclusively, he is biting the style of Ricardo Villalobos, who did the same thing about 18 months previous. His hysterical indignation is adorable. Moreover, he claims that Fabric45 took shape in the way it did because no-one else out there in house or techno was doing it for him to the extent that he felt like giving them airtime; while you might feel differently, you’d be a damn fool to argue with the results. Repping for his Detroit homestead as he does, you could get all frothy about placing Omar in the city’s techno legacy, but this doesn’t sound like it’s honouring the creators or what the hell ever. It’s just 16 tracks of jacking, chattering rhythms, keys of portent, gloopily psyched-out FX tweaking and space, so much lovely infinite space between the sounds that you can zone in on one of three or four elements at any one time and allow yourself to be spirited away.
Buraka Som Sistema (Fabriclive.49)
It would have been highly righteous if Portugal’s Buraka Som Sistema had used this opportunity to exhibit a bunch of little-known Angolan kuduro tracks that they know from the neighbourhoods around Lisbon and which influenced their sound. Fitting, too, seeing as Buraka Som Sistema did much to make the wider world aware of kuduro. We’re thankful. But no-one who goes to Fabric knows the sitting down, white-trainer-as-telephone dance and the purpose here is to hit the global club zeitgeist, such as it was in 2009, firmly on the head. There are a couple of kuduro tracks featured (including the screwy and brilliant ‘Bazuka’ by Solo), but they’re just one stop on this world tour that takes in the Caribbean, South America, North America (Diplo, naturally), continental Europe and, with appearances from bassline powerhouse L-Vis 1990 as well as Zomby and Skream, good ole Blighty. It’s a throbbing, cosmopolitan carnival of a mix; the kind of international voyage that, once again, finds you bowing down in wonder at the awesome reach of the internet. Wegue wegue.
Wonky my arse: it's bittersweet writing about dance music now, when post-surgery I can barely swing a hip without pulling stitches. Dutch DJ/producer Martyn Dejikers set out his stall for 2010 early by pulling together a mix for Fabric many may have expected from this eclectic dubstepper. Following a 2009 that saw him in demand for collaborations (you may be familiar with his remix of Fever Ray's 'Seven', and included in this mix is his version of 'Circles' by The Detachments), and a respectful critical reception for his debut album, Great Lengths, Martyn's Fabric 50, 2010's first release on the club imprint, is the sound of a man at the top of his game.
From its first moments, as the skittery tinctures of Hudson Mohawke's 'Joy Fantastic' make themselves felt, it's clear Martyn is out to push boundaries. This he manages with elegance and iron control, revealing a deep and affectionate understanding of the rhythmic and historical relationships between microgenres, melding the shuffle of broken beat (Maddslinky's 'Lost on Tenori Street') to the shuddery melancholy of dubstep melodies (Kode9's 'Oozi' marks the mix's midpoint, and Zomby features no less then 3 times), and the sizzle of funky to the pulsing house and techno that figure so strongly within his own musical background. Unstintingly brilliant, and by far the most interesting of the Fabric mixes of recent years. The very day the stitches melt, this will be my bedroom's christening dance.
Fabric's vending machine: can I have a Wham
bar, a packet of Space Raiders and some
expertly mixed minimal techno please?
To be in with a chance of winning a bundle of ten Fabric releases, answer the following question:
One DJ has helped create two of the 100 mixes. Which group is he most closely affiliated with:
A. Ragga Twins
B. Omni Trio
C. Ganja Kru