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Fabric 50

[Fabric; 2010]

By ; February 9, 2010 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

Fabric are having a weird month. Not only did they fall flat on their face with an attempt at anthologizing the current state of bass music, but they recently announced their 50th FabricLive release with a similarly underwhelming mix by Instra:Mental & D-Bridge. Now they’re doing the 50th release in their flagship Fabric series, which usually consist of more straightforward techno and house mixes (while FabricLive deals with all the other stuff). Now, straightforward doesn’t mean boring – past mixes from Omar-S, Villalobos, et al, have been some of the most exciting discs of the past decade. But the Fabric tag does imply a certain traditionalism, genre boundaries – hell, even dubstep heavyweights Caspa & Rusko were relegated to FabricLive. So who would they choose for their 50th? One of the club’s founders? One of the established greats? Nope, they chose Martyn, Dutch dubstep/techno denizen and all-around mad scientist. Wait, what?

Martyn’s still-completely-unique fusion of dubstep, techno and drum & bass seems an odd fit for Fabric, its schizo tendencies more suited to the less predictable FabricLive. But when you actually listen, it all makes sense, or at least makes you forget about the weird match. Martyn doesn’t go nuts with hip-hop, grime or pop, but he does make a seamless mix of dubstep, house and techno, and covering the many sub-genres in between. Just look at the tracklist on this thing! It starts with Hudson Mohawke and ends with Dorian Concept – if these bookends were any wonkier I fear the mix would simply give away. But most importantly, it just works – it never feels showy or gimmicky, everything here is here because it’s good. The mixing is elegant, precise, and pretty much perfect – there are no awkward passages or shaky transitions even where it seems like there’s sure to be a slip-up.

So, we’ve covered the rather esoteric beginning and ending; what actually happens in between? There are too many great moments scattered about Fabric 50 to properly mention every one, and the entire thing sounds like a utopian party, discarding genre games and the tightly knit cults that form around them. Sometimes the mix is great because of the blending, and sometimes it’s great just because he has an ear for great tunes (Altered Natives’ “Rass Out,” Joy Orbison’s “BRKLN CLLN,” 2562’s “Flashback”). After getting off to a bizarre start with HudMo, Martyn descends into a frantic percussion blitz that lasts for about 10 tracks till it’s interrupted by Ben Klock’s existential dread – which itself is rudely interrupted by a string of prime funky house from a chilled-out Cooly G to typically hyperactive Roska. If that isn’t enough mind-bending metamorphosis for you, it’s the mix’s final third that’s the most impressive. Entering unforeseen waters with Levon Vincent’s acid house and continuing on from there with Zomby, Actress, Martyn, 2562, and some more Martyn, it ends on a completely unexpected note with Dorian Concept’s decidedly un-techno “Trilingual Dance Sexperience.”

Like any prominent mix worth its weight in beats, Fabric 50 has quite a few exclusive tracks in the form of remixes of Martyn tracks (as well as a few unreleased Zomby cuts in his typical 8-bit acid-soaked-rainbow tradition). The Martyn remixes are diverse and reflect his impressive reach; who else could get both Ben Klock and Roska to remix their tracks? Ben Klock’s remix of Martyn’s “Is This Insanity” is quite possibly the best thing on the entire mix, coating Spaceape’s vocals with soot and pulling out the dub in favour of something more cerebral, more worn, and most importantly, 4/4. Redshape reworks Martyn’s “Seventy-Four” into his own brand of gauzy, soft-focused-lens techno, and Roska stubbornly layers his trademark kicks and snares over “These Words,” giving the laid-back track an unnatural urgency. Zomby is the other big star here, with his playful “Mercury’s Rainbow” stealing the show late in the mix, and Kode9 puts an upbeat spin on his more recent sound with “Oozi.”

It seems a bit of a risky decision to give over such an ‘important’ number in a techno mix series to a dubstep producer, but this time it sure as hell paid off. Martyn’s remarkably wizened hand (one wonders if that’s it on the cover, forcing the listener to cower before its might) doesn’t so much make funky house or wonky bass palatable to ardent techno listeners as combine these styles so thoroughly that ‘genre’ simply loses its meaning. It’s all about the beat anyway, and when the beats are this varied, this insidious, this life-affirming, and mixed this well, it doesn’t matter what time signature or how many beats per minute they are. Martyn could’ve taken the easy way out and made a straightforward techno (or dubstep) mix, but I get the feeling that he knew he needed to make something memorable, so he did – even if it’s a sly fuck-you to the institution’s own occasional self-aggrandizing conservatism, which will hopefully become a thing of the past after the sure success of this genius release.


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