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The Lead Review

Hyperglobal, Hyperlocal: Kode9 & Burial’s Fabriclive 100
Christian Eede , September 28th, 2018 00:00

Zooming across decades and continents, the south London producer and the Hyperdub label boss deliver a 75-minute treasure trove for the very last mix in the Fabriclive series

Eight years ago, as Mary Anne Hobbs bowed out of her weekly slot on BBC Radio 1, she aired a first-time collaborative mix from Kode9 and Burial. Featured among brief interludes of rain, a by then well-established feature of Burial’s productions, was UK garage from El-B, smooth R&B and funk by Erykah Badu and Prince, and dazzling 90s jungle by Foul Play and A Guy Called Gerald, as well as tracks from such contemporaries as Zomby and Cooly G.

Brief as that mix was, coming in at only 35 minutes, it was a significant event for me, as I’m sure it was for many. I listened intently over the radio. I was 16, and had only a short while before become an obsessive listener to Hobbs’ show and the music, like Burial’s, that she championed. Not only did that moment mark Burial’s second publicly shared mix ever (his first, also for Mary Anne Hobbs, was comprised entirely from his own productions), it also offered a tangible snapshot of the tastes of a notoriously secretive producer – something we could only get a sense of previously through the heavily manipulated samples of 00s R&B and Metal Gear Solid that filled his earlier work.

Save for another recent 30-minute outing for Mary Anne Hobbs, Fabriclive 100 is the first mix to emerge from the duo since that radio set in 2010. In the eight years between them, Kode9’s DJ sets and mixes have shifted significantly towards showcasing the embarrassment of riches emerging from the juke and footwork scenes, which he has also explored in his own productions and in releases from DJ Taye, DJ Tre and the late DJ Rashad on his Hyperdub label. Burial’s productions, meanwhile, have for the most part shifted into increasingly abstract and fractured ground.

Opening on a fleeting wave of atmospheric synths and vinyl crackle that is unmistakably the sound of Burial, Fabriclive 100, the final entry in the London club’s long-running compilation series, quickly moves on to the sounds of one of Hyperdub’s more recent signings, Klein. Her track ‘Hurry’ centres around the cut-and-paste, DIY style that can be heard across much of her output. From here, we’re ushered quickly onto another of Hyperdub’s key artists, Cooly G, setting the tone for a mix that bounds through a variety of club-rooted sounds old and new, the pair touching on music originating from various reaches of the globe. A few minutes in, the mix rolls into a section devoted to the gqom sound of Durban, one of the most vital forms of club music to emerge in recent years. Over the next six minutes or so, we’re treated to a number of tracks from that scene by the likes of Julz Da Deejay, TLC Fam and more. It's mixed together with such pace and precision that you’d be forgiven for not quite keeping up with where one track ends and another begins. Next, we're introduced to a new Hyperdub signee in Nazar whose track 'Konvoy' sits somewhere between the kuduro experimentations of Lisbon's Príncipe and the modern experimental club music of labels such as Bala Club and NAAFI - the latter makes an appearance on the next track via Lechuga Zafiro's 'Agua y Puerta'.

Throughout Fabriclive 100, Kode9 and Burial piece together their choices with little care for linearity or the kind of journey-led approach many might expect from a mix CD. Ambient interludes – many of them carrying Burial’s signature sound palette – weave in and out throughout the mix, perhaps bridging the gaps between the respective artists’ selections. The first of these arrives following the initial burst of gqom and current experimental club sounds at around the 12-minute mark, when a slice of unashamedly cheesy, vocoder-ridden electro-pop from Luke Slater pushes the mix into very different territory.

From here, we’re treated to a propulsive run of 90s jungle and hardcore from labels such as Rabbit City and Bear Necessities, ramping up the intensity and tempo, which remains high through much of the remainder of the mix. To my ears, these selections sound distinctly like those of Burial, though it’s of course hard to be sure. This push-and-pull dynamic follows through the rest of Fabriclive 100. Another ambient interlude, in the form of Vladislav Delay’s ‘Otan Osaa’, gives way to a volley of footwork at the 30-minute mark. Anyone familiar with Kode9’s DJ sets in recent years will immediately pick out this section as being the work of the Hyperdub boss who packs numerous tracks from some of the scene’s key names, such as DJ Spinn and DJ Tre, into the next 10 minutes. It comes to a head, somewhat poignantly, with one of DJ Rashad’s greatest moments in ‘Let It Go’. That track featured on the producer’s first record with Hyperdub in 2013 which kickstarted a now-established healthy connection between the label and Chicago’s footwork scene. Later, following more scattershot bursts of jungle, hardcore, techno and breaks, the mix returns to exploring the ever-fertile footwork scene in another section that you might expect is the work of Kode9. Music from Jlin and Proc Fiskal – two producers pushing the 160 BPM framework of footwork and juke into exciting new directions – sit alongside tracks by DJ Tre and RP Boo released through Hyperdub and Planet Mu respectively.

Fabriclive 100 was never going to be a simple, smooth back-to-back between the two artists behind it. That’s of course heavily down to the licensing constrictions that come with a commercially available mix CD, removing any room for spontaneity or considered progression. Instead, while offering us a typically enigmatic insight into Burial’s mind, the mix acts as a kind of victory lap for one of the most important electronic music labels of the 21st century, Hyperdub, giving nods to Klein, Cooly G, Okzharp, Proc Fiskal and its various footwork compatriots. While the pair pay respect to the music on which so much of Hyperdub was founded – 90s jungle, hardcore and techno – there’s a heavy focus on the present and future sounds that the label, and its founder, continue to champion so vitally.

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