Fabriclive 93

The last time I saw Dan Snaith, aka Daphni aka head honcho of Canadian electro rock band Caribou, DJ live was a few years ago at Sónar Reykjavik. After having my senses defiled by the buzzkill of seeing Diplo attempt to DJ, I went upstairs and caught Snaith’s performance, whereupon I was treated to a set from a man who has a surefooted sense of groove and one hell of an intuition as to what tracks go together.

It’s this off-the-cuff intuition that has served him well as Daphni, a project intended to scratch the itch of his passion towards the immediacy and energy of the dancefloor that wasn’t being satisfied with Caribou. After a small brace of 12” releases, his debut album Jiaolong was one of the more unexpected yet well received hits of 2012, a mix of irrepressible machine funk, sweaty afro beats, and rolling percussive loops and funk samples that was effortlessly infectious. Since then, apart from a collaboration with Owen Pallett in 2014, a free download of the track ‘Vikram’ in 2015, and the odd mix (including the now infamous 7-and-a-half-hour long set-as-musical journey at the Bussey Building), things have been a bit quiet of late from Snaith’s Daphni persona.

But now he is back, with FabricLive 93, the latest instalment in Fabric’s live mix series. Snaith has described how he planned to make a bunch of new tracks and how the process grew past the original intentions to the point where “a lot of these tracks were recorded in situ in the mix itself – I’d put one track in place and instead of searching through existing music to find the track to follow it I’d just make an entirely new one.” Fabric mixes consisting of tracks made exclusively by the artist themselves are not new: Shackleton, Omar-S and Ricardo Villalobos (whom Snaith cites as a big influence on his decision to produce the mix for Fabric) made mixes consisting entirely of exclusive self-made tracks, while Steffi on Fabric 94 recently commissioned new and unheard tracks from a variety of friends and fellow producers.

But while those editions of the Fabric series all followed a smooth linear path and, in the case of Steffi’s Fabric 94, allow the tracks to unfurl and breathe in their shining glory, Snaith goes in completely the opposite direction, in a way that mirrors his DJing style. Calling upon a divergent range of sounds and genres from classic soul, funk and disco to afrobeat, house and at times UKG there is a febrile, restless nature in Snaith’s approach to this mix. There are still some threads that run through the tracks: opener ‘Face to Face’, ‘Xing Tian’, ‘Medellin’ and ‘Hey Drum’ exemplify the core sound of the first sections of FabricLive 93 – tough, dry funk/soul backbeats, thudding kick drums, clipped vocal samples and jabbing house synth pads that drop in and out of the mix. Unlike the glossy smoothness that you expect from many Fabric mixes, in several moments during FabricLive 93 there is a hands-on rawness, where the sense that Snaith is producing these sounds on the fly after one or two takes is palpable.

Due to Snaith’s decision to make music in situ, FabricLive 93 tends to veer and swerve all over the place in terms of a ‘narrative’. In a similar way to his Jiaolong album, there is no real sense of the standard cohesive build-up of peaks of energy and the resulting resolution/release from regular dance music. Instead, Snaith often prefers to change tack with a different sound of style, leaving any build-up unresolved. There are moments when such spontaneity comes together, especially in the latter section of the mix – a section that lasts from ‘Tin’ to ‘Screaming Man Baby’ fizzes with energy as Snaith moves from hi-NRG house to chewy synth lines with a martial beat, back to house, to delicate harp melodies set to syncopated beats, to UKG, to Persian-inspired pop, all in the space of 20 minutes. There are occasions where such an approach leaves a slightly duff note to proceedings, such as his decision to follow the menacing groove of ‘Hey Drum’ with the light and airy edit of Luther Davis Group’s disco track ‘You Can Be A Star’, or towards the end where he follows the piano banging house anthem of ‘406.42 ppm’ with the fidgety, sped-up afrobeat sounds of ‘Always There’. In such instances, the sense of building energy simply dissipates.

It’s moments like these that make FabricLive 93 a mix that is at times exhilarating, impulsive, bewildering, and occasionally frustrating. You can hear that Snaith is clearly having fun letting his instincts take him where he feels the music needs to go. This rubs off on the mix – you do find yourself propelled by the energy, despite the missteps made on the way.

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