I’ve only collected one thing in my life. FabricLive CDs. I’ve been obsessed with them for at least a decade now. Not only is it the best DJ mix series in the world, but each edition acts as a time capsule of a particular scene at a particular time. Taken together as a whole, you have a pretty good representation of what’s been going on in club culture since 2001. Obviously there are plenty of subgenres that don’t get an airing, but that doesn’t detract from the overall quality of the series. So when it was announced that Fabric was closing, I decided to listen again to each and every edition, and rank them. It took a long time. So long that Fabric actually reopened in that time. So what better way to celebrate, than a complete run down of every single mix from the Friday night series, from worst to best. Obviously it’s completely subjective, and I’ll no doubt be hounded for my decisions (this is the internet after all). And before you ask no, I will not be giving the Fabric series the same treatment. I need to listen to some folk or something.
90: FabricLive.42: Freq Nasty
The monologue from Saul Williams sets the tone for what should be an exciting, exhilarating 70 minutes. Unfortunately, the mix becomes unbearably irritating almost immediately. Brostep is bad, but this is worse. Even though the tracks are mixed relatively quickly, very few of them warrant more than 30 seconds. I don’t even understand how you would begin to dance to this shitheap. If you’re out to annoy your parents, it’s perfect. But I can’t imagine ever being in the mood to listen to this, and I’m a big fan of music designed to test your patience.’Lower State of Consciousness‘ can’t have been made for any reason other than to troll ravers; it’s more disruptive than the dial-up tone. There are moments, such as the Lee Perry cut where the tone finally transforms into something listenable, but they’re few and far between. What’s most surprising is that there are so many reliable names featured here. Tayo, Reso, L-Vis 1990, I’m normally a fan of all of them. They might be poor tunes, or they could have just been pitched up to oblivion. It’s difficult to tell, just as it’s hard to know whether the second half is better than the first, or if you just become more able to tolerate it over time. I was less annoyed by the end of the mix than I was in the first 15 minutes. But barely.
89: FabricLive.82: Ed Rush & Optical
The fact that the tracklisting says we’re on track 2 after 16 seconds tells you all you need to know about this monstrosity. Considering how long they’ve been in the game it’s a shocking performance from the pair, as they bombard you with 39 identical, soulless, aggressive and highly unoriginal tracks. The impact of each and every tune is diminished by what surrounds it, and they layer tracks in such a way that the whole is so much less than the sum of its parts. There are buildups every minute, double-drops that don’t go well together at all, and the rhythm remains totally straight and formulaic. It reminds me of the most recent Die Hard (or any crap action reboot for that matter), the noise is so constant that there’s nothing to latch onto. When they do let a track run for more than a minute or two it becomes more bearable, but it never lasts. And the fact that there’s no discernible key for the majority of the mix is aggravating. Musically, there’s just nothing here. I kept checking how many tracks were left and couldn’t believe how much I still had to sit through. The longest 70 minutes of your life.
88: FabricLive.33: Spank Rock
This mix tries to be too many things all at once, and ends up failing at most of them. The first 4 tracks are wildly different from one another, and are only given a minute or two each, so if you were enjoying one of them it’s gone almost immediately. The decent electro inclusions are ruined with low quality rap acapellas, and the majority of the vocals throughout are pretty annoying. A lot of the better tracks sound like the payoff to a buildup that never happened. And the general tone of the mix makes me think of Nathan Barley. Everything is appreciated ‘ironically’, with very little substance underneath. Even Daft Punk ends up irritating. There’s more pop on this mix than any other edition in the series, and it’s not done nearly as cleverly as it thinks. The aim is an anything goes mix in the style of 2 Many DJs, but it misses the mark by a long, long way. When they finally start including some less well known choices, and mixing them less abruptly during the second half the mix improves, but it’s still all over the place with too many styles and zero consistency. The saving grace is the final track ‘Love To The World‘, a gorgeous soaring closer. But the rest really isn’t worth your time.
87: FabricLive.06: Grooverider
This one didn’t age well. As one of the older dnb mixes in the series, this would have been recorded on vinyl, and tracks are allowed to roll for upwards of 5 minutes. Many of them are based around a 5 second loop repeated with little variation, so it quickly gets monotonous. The mixing really isn’t all that smooth, and you can hear very clearly when a new tune is being introduced. It is quite refreshing to hear where drum ‘n’ bass came from, as the aggressive tracks are totally bearable by today’s standards, and the more soulful ones have a retro quality which conjures up images of the 90s. But the programming isn’t up to par, and really it’s just 18 dnb tracks in a row rather than a well crafted mix. It’s fine for putting on in the background whilst you rag out your fifth hand Vauxhall Corsa, but it won’t command your attention like other editions of the series. In 2002, dnbs best moments were still a long way off. Don’t believe the haters, it wasn’t better back in the day.
86: FabricLive.43: Switch & Sinden present: Get Familiar
I don’t know if it’s just a question of taste, but from the very first track this mix gets on my tits. The vocals are irritating, the lyrics mindless, and the whole thing conjures up images of bros in tanktops and snapbacks at spring break. It’s mixed well enough, but it’s an absolute onslaught. When the vocals ease off a few tracks in it all becomes a bit more bearable, but it’s not long before they’re back. The excessive tempo makes the whole mix seem messy, and very difficult to dance to. When the sounds veer away from electro-pop and get more tribal, the insistent rhythm begins to make more sense, and even though the mix into grime & dubstep sounds far too cocky, it does give a bit of breathing room. From this point, contributions from JME and Zomby shine in comparison to what we’ve heard so far. But soon enough, we’re back at over-the-top fidget house. It’s a genre I absolutely loved at the start of the decade, but not at this speed. ‘Beat Bang‘ has a catchy enough synth lead, but next to that, it’s pretty weak. The penultimate tune from M83 is the best thing on the mix by a long way, and apart from the very end, the mix is devoid of any real feeling.
85: FabricLive.05: Howie B
This one started so promisingly. The transition from the distorted kicks of ‘Fish‘ to the moody atmospherics of ‘Neuroscan‘ really set a perfect Fabric mood. In fact, apart from all being a bit lengthy, everything about the opening trio of tracks is spot on. But the transition into a very bland remix of ‘Daydream In Blue‘ is a real bodge job, and completely disrupts the flow of the mix. The original version is so innovative, but here it’s completely stripped of anything that made it great. And the next transition is even worse. Once you’ve spotted quite how bad Howie is at moving from one track to the next, it’s difficult to ignore. We could give some allowances for the fact that this came out in 2002, and Serato was a long way off, but none of the other mixes from this period are so full of errors. And the selections are sort of 50/50. Some of them are great, but pretty much all of them roll on for too long, without forming a cohesive whole. The final dub track would have worked fantastically had it rounded off a well crafted mix, but unfortunately, it feels as flat as the other 70 minutes.
84: FabricLive.79: Jimmy Edgar
I’m often disappointed when an edition of this series is a straight up house and techno mix, for the simple reason that the Fabric series has this covered. I suppose if the series is supposed to be wide-ranging and cover everything, then there’s no reason for tech-house to be excluded. But when a mix requires such an attention span, I struggle. The records selected by Edgar are all about repetition, repetition, repetition. With such little emphasis on melody, and such metronomic rhythm, the focus just seems to be endless patience. It succeeds in its mission of inducing a trance, and every minuscule change is perceived as a landslide once you’re in the zone. But thrilling it certainly isn’t, and there’s more than enough minimal on the sister series.
83: FabricLive.89: Hannah Wants
It’s very difficult to be impartial when it comes to Hannah Wants. It’s well known that many of her productions were ghostwritten by Chris Lorenzo. She was recently accused of some pretty blatant plagiarism (the track in question ‘Found The Ground‘ actually appears on this mix), and if you Google image search her, there’s a hell of a lot of cleavage led publicity shots. You could argue that this is a sad part of the territory for female DJs, but you don’t get the same results if you search for B.Traits, Monki, or Flava D. So in a sense, I’m relieved that this mix really isn’t all that good. The individual tracks aren’t bad, but the mix absolutely plods. At the beginning I didn’t mind so much, as house music is all about building the tension towards a big crescendo, but it never gets there. Pretty much every track is built around the same dirt simple bassline, and there’s very little variation. Even an updated version of the Claude Vonstroke classic ‘Who’s Afraid Of Detroit?’ seems dull. It’s by no means the worst house mix I’ve heard, or the most boring, but it leaves a lot to be desired. And this right here is why I have no interest in ever going to Ibiza.
82: FabricLive.67: Ben UFO
Ben UFO routinely tops ‘Best DJ’ lists on a number of chin-stroker websites, but based on this CD, I struggle to understand the hype. The mix certainly moves from one extreme to the other quickly, with a deep, crunchy techno thud one minute, and stripped down bongos the next. But it seems to experimental for its own good. The elephantine stomp of ‘Twisted Balloon‘ is straight up weird, like a mangled trombone. It sounds completely stupid, but not in a fun way. This combination of the incredibly sparse, with the utterly bizarre gets in the way of there being much emotional resonance. I don’t understand how it’s trying to make me feel. Is it fun? Deep? Unnerving? I honestly don’t know. And as for the mixing, it’s all perfectly in time, but many of the leaps between tracks don’t allow for smooth transitions; it’s all about changing mood quickly. All this uncertainty does make for intriguing listen. You don’t know what’s going to happen next, other than the fact it will probably be techno. It’s forward-thinking, sure, but I can’t help but feel something has been lost. There are moments of real beauty, such as Bandshell’s ‘Perc‘, but they’re far too rare.
81: FabricLive.38: Craze
DMC champ Craze’s Fabriclive gets off to a phenomenal star, with bars from Armanni Reign shouting out the venue and the man behind the decks. The first few tracks have buckets of swag, and it’s impossible not to get on board with Craze’s turntable trickery. Starting slow, he keeps dropping the tempo getting more and more stoned. It gets to the point where he’s switching tempo pretty much every tune, but the selections remain strong. Then, only 8 tracks in, Craze gives up on the hip-hop framework and goes in a very strange 80s direction. The theme from Miami Vice is an oddly inspired choice, which somehow works, but it then starts to fall apart. It feels incredibly dated and cheesy, and when there is a modern choice, such as Switch’s remix of Coldcut’s ‘True Skool‘, you wonder whether it’s trying to be annoying. It’s telling that Armand Van Helden’s ‘I Want Your Soul‘, a tune that typifies Ministry Of Sound compilations, is actually one of the highpoints. What’s most off-putting though, is the sheer misogyny of it all, as loads of tracks tell the girls to shake it and take their panties off, whilst tracks like ‘Ho Fo Sho‘ and ‘Lindsay Lohan’s Revenge‘ are slut-shaming monstrosities, telling the ladies to shut their legs. Whenever Craze scratches, you marvel at his skills, but the flow and track selection is a phenomenal let down.
80: FabricLive.49: Buraka Som Sistema
Let’s hope you like it fast, because this one leaves no breathing room. Hurtling through the tracks at lightspeed, this is one hype carnival. The international sounds are great, but those drums are a lot to deal with. It’s exciting for a period, but very full on. Sometimes it’s hilariously cheeky, such as A1 Bassline’s ridiculously over the top remix of ‘Ic19‘ but most of the time it’s just too much. Even the dubstep selections rarely drop down to half time, the first opportunity for a rest coming on track 12 ‘Mermaid Dub‘. It’s instantly the best bit so far, in particular because it actually has some melody to it, something there’s been a distinct lack of. 3 short tracks and we’re back at carnival tempo. It might have been more bearable if any of the songs included were given a bit of time instead of just hurtling to the next buildup. Strangely, there are other mixes in the series with nearly twice the number of tracks, that somehow feel so much less hectic than this one. The last few tracks ease up, and it suddenly becomes brilliant, but the majority is aggressively energetic, and tires you out far too quickly.
79: FabricLive.02: Ali B
The second Fabriclive outing covers similar breaks territory to the first, but unfortunately makes nowhere near as much of an impact. It’s full of groove, but devoid of surprises. Understandably, breakbeat from 2002 will sound dated today, but it all comes of as pretty boring, even with commands being chucked about it to shake it, throw your hands up, etc. The rhythm stays static, and the first real standout ‘Let Me See If You Can Dance‘ is cut short to make way for a terrible Rapper’s Delight reference. This is the lowest point, and the selections then improve, but it still sounds a lot more dated than a lot of dance records from even the 90s. There’s little drama, as the mix sort of plods from one track to another, most of them sounding horribly similar. This similarity in tunes does at least mean that it’s mixed flawlessly. But the transitions are so seamless that you often don’t notice a difference. From ‘Big Groovy Fucker‘ onwards the selections improve, and the final track from Mr Scruff is a beauty, but this is only the final stretch, and it’s too late to save the day.
78: FabricLive.73: Pangaea
I’m not sure what I would make of this in a live setting. On headphones, the intricacy and subtlety of everything going on in the top end is audible, but Pangaea has a very clear love of a monolithic, brutal kick, that I fear would be too overpowering were I actually there. In the club, stuff like this bores my socks off. And yet, listening to it now, it’s definitely more interesting than the majority of kick-kick techno I’ve herd. Percussion is funky, pads are beautiful, it feels exciting. But I know in a club I’d feel the opposite. The tracks that lean towards post-dubstep such as Mumdance & MAO’s ‘Truth‘ and the opener ‘Recreational Slumming‘ provide the best rhythmic interplay on the disc, but the bulk of the mix still feels a bit empty. Interesting enough on headphones, but in a club I wouldn’t walk away from this set with an urge to tell anyone about it.
77: FabricLive.70: Friction
Friction’s entry into the FabricLive cannon is perfect. Too perfect. And therein lies its problem. He’s clearly technically flawless in his mixing style, and a master of picking tunes that work together harmonically, but all this perfection actually leaves this mix with very little in the way of personality. By fitting in a full 360 range of dnb, we’re left without any real clues as to his personal taste, apart from that he seems to favour radio-friendly pop-ballad vocals paired with aggressive breakdowns. It’s a sad reminder that we’re regularly hearing dnb on daytime radio, which isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, it’s just so sickeningly polished. The rolling breaks that thunder in after the halftime stepper ‘Annie’s Song‘ do start to give us a rest from the metronomic regularity of the rest of the mix, and the second half gets a lot more rhythmically interesting. But too much of this mix is exactly what I’ve come to expect from drum ‘n’ bass, and it doesn’t feel thrilling anymore. There are actually a fair few tunes on here that I’ve loved for years, but the heightened drama and constant double dropping means they lose their power. Admittedly, this may not be the case within the clubs walls, as I distinctly remember being blown away by a Friction set at Fabric back in 2010, and it probably wasn’t much different to this, except with more pullups.
76: FabricLive.41: Simian Mobile Disco
Simian Mobile Disco’s entry begins with some distinctive and funky indie disco. It’s in a minor key, but it’s all too sparkly to be threatening in any way. The pained voice of Antony Hegarty enters on ‘Blind‘, providing some real depth, and the mix continues to glitter and shine. There are some massive peaks within the first 20 minutes of the mix, and then it begins to calm right down. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Whilst the tracks aren’t bad, the way in which they’ve been ordered unfortunately makes the bulk of the mix quite boring; all the excitement has been crammed into the beginning. Throughout the opening stretch, the tracks bled into one another telling a clear story that started cheeky, and gradually got more emotional, but the boys quickly lose sight of this aim as they begin to just beatmatch a bunch of songs they like. ‘Erotic Discourse‘ is a classic that simply isn’t used to its proper potential here. The closing number from The Walker Brothers is undoubtedly an inspired choice, as Scott Walker’s croon is beautifully reminiscent of Hegarty’s from the start. But the journey that got us to this point doesn’t warrant such a glorious closer.
75: FabricLive.83: Logan Sama
Now, I like grime as much as the next home-counties, grammar school educated white boi. But it’s impossible not to spot a few problems with this mix. With too many MCs to count, this set is so packed to the rafters that it would have been impossible to maintain a great level of quality. Kicking off with Wiley & P Money, the decline is pretty much immediate. Logan presumably asked the MCs to record their bars themselves, and then send them over to be paired with backing tracks. You can hear quite clearly who has access to a good microphone and who doesn’t. Quite often, the vocals are far too loud in the mix, which makes the epic backing sound weak. And it’s just relentless. The mic is being passed every 21 seconds for over 70 minutes. The longest breather last about 8 seconds, which means that the top notch production rarely gets a chance to shine. In terms of bars, there are plenty of hilarious highlights, but they’re gone so quickly that it’s hard to recall them 2 minutes later. The display of talent on here is formidable, but less is more. This is just more, more, more. If you’re a grime diehard, this is essential. If you’re a casual listener, it could put you off for life.
74: FabricLive.77: Erol Alkan
I saw Erol Alkan play back in 2010, and it was phenomenal. I still remember the way he bookended the set with his Boys Noize collaboration ‘Lemonade‘, the way he used New Order’s ‘Blue Monday‘ as the ultimate party peak, and how utterly in control of the dancefloor he seemed. It’s still one of the best sets I’ve ever seen, which is why it’s disappointing that this mix is so pedestrian and normal. The beginning of this set seems to be concerned with building the tension without ever reaching a peak, which isn’t to say the music is bad, but anyone who’s seen Alkan spin should agree that he’s more of a risk taker than this set lets on. As we reach the middle it does start to get groovy as fuck. Kicking off with Alkan’s own ‘Sub Conscious‘, the next 3 tracks are absolute belters, but it’s not long before he settles back into simple acid rollers. This music is effective for getting a dancefloor into a groove, but it’s just not that interesting, and there’s nothing particularly innovative about the mixing either. When the emotional pads of ‘From White To Red‘ enter, they feel out of place. The latter half runs heavy on these kind of chords, which are beautiful, but would have made much more sense towards the beginning of the mix. It’s almost a mix of two halves, which might have come off much better had they been served the other way round. The closing mashup is the best thing on the CD, but the lesson is clear: you don’t have to save the best until last.
73: FabricLive.44: Commix
In an effort to distance themselves as far as possible from the jump up scene, Commix deliver up a mix of yearning, beautiful drum ‘n’ bass that’s light to the touch throughout. The opening track ‘Life We Live‘ conjures up images of an actual jungle bursting with life, though peaceful. dBridge’s ‘Creatures of Habit‘ is heartbreaking. Then it starts to get darker and more aggressive, whilst still very, very restrained. Although the mood shifts throughout the mix, the urgency doesn’t. It’s a meticulously produced series of records, but it never gets truly exciting. The aim was to avoid all that over-the-top drama, which is admirable, but eventually it gets boring. The tracks start to become indistinguishable, as the key elements repeat themselves, and even when the rhythm completely switches around it doesn’t feel like much of a change. I get their point. Dnb had become all about the buildup. But they’ve pushed so far in the opposite direction that it’s to their detriment. Though the music is generally beautiful, some peaks and troughs wouldn’t have gone amiss.
72: FabricLive.21: Meat Katie
Though this mix is from 2005, the opener from Lee Coombs & David Phillips feels more retro than that, almost like an amphetamine version of Gary Numan. There’s echoes of Kraftwerk, and early 90s diva vocals, all fed through a breaks lens, which all make the mix seem doubly dated. Plenty of the tunes are cheeky as fuck, knowingly quite cheesy, but still clearly drugged up rave music. It’s all mixed methodically, so as one tune comes to an end, the first glimpses of the next have already started to emerge without you even noticing. But although Meat Katie manages to carve out a niche sound, at least half of the tracks here could definitely qualify as filler. It’s a shame since there are plenty of catchy, distinctive moments, but there aren’t enough surprises. Breaks for me is at its best when it’s gnarly and gritty, such as Elite Force’s ‘Shadow Box‘, and the mix can often seem quite soft for what it is. At times it’s a lot of fun, and hands in the air moments such as Force Mass Motion’s ‘Out of It‘ send the mix alight, but there’s not much variation, and it really hasn’t aged well.
71: FabricLive.78: Illum Sphere
The opening stretch of this edition is fascinating, and impossible to place. There’s so much vinyl crackle, these records are probably older than the DJ playing them. It veers between dub and techno, dark and creepy, like a black and white german arthouse horror film. After 5 tracks at 80bpm and an interlude, Illum Sphere begins the remainder of the mix with a more familiar house tempo, though there’s a really strong air of snobbery. This is proper chin-stroker music; it’s supposed to challenge you, rather than be simply enjoyed. Giving dusty vinyl the chance to be listened to on an enormous sound system is totally commendable, but there’s something sacrificed in this reverence of older sounds. And that’s the sense of fun. There is nothing fun about this mix at all. It’s deeply intriguing, but it can also get boring. Key clashes and sub-par mixing are forgiven because of the vinyl method, but should they be? There are stretches of extreme beauty that last for several tracks, but there are also frustrating passages that don’t offer a whole lot. It’s clear that he’s used to playing much, much longer sets, and he’s struggled to condense his style to a single CD. Although the final stretch is utterly sublime, there’s something hollow and disappointing about the mix as a whole.
70: FabricLive.85: Jesse Rose
The monologue that opens the mix, extolling the virtues of Molly probably didn’t do Fabric any favours when they try and claim there’s no link between club culture and massive drug use, but the bass groove that follows is wonderfully unique for a house mix. Rose has a very sensitive manner of mixing, and clearly cut his teeth in the 90s when clubbers had much more patience. He’s a master of slow and subtle transitions, gentle and hypnotic. Mixes in 2016 are rarely this friendly; the vocal on ‘Alright (Gerd Deep Remix)‘ is pure soul music. It is very, very clam though, and you do begin to wonder if it will ever really get going. Each and every tune is lovely in its own way, but there’s barely any energetic choices. The mix also seems a little front-loaded, and the tune selection gets less effective the further into the mix we get. The mix begins with a proper flow to the sequencing, but loses it in the middle. It does recover by the end, as the final 4 tracks all work well together to create a deep tapestry, but the middle stretch is just too long.
69: FabricLive.86: My Nu Leng
The way the mix begins makes it sound like we’re in a dungeon, which I’ve found an unfortunate trend in the past few years. We’re living in dark times, but club music has been taking it too far, and there’s just not that much fun anymore. That said, RL Grime’s ‘Scylla‘ towards the beginning of the mix is totally stupid and over the top, so I may just be reading too much into it. The way this halftime monster is double dropped into a house rhythm doesn’t come off quite as it should, but it’s at least commendable hearing My Nu Leng trying to bridge the gap between styles that their own productions manage so successfully. The mix is more mechanical and clunky than it is smooth, with an enormous amount of weight. There’s also a metric fuckton of buildups and breakdowns, with the mix refusing to roll for any substantial length of time, even though many of the tracks would be perfect for this. And it’s a marmite mix; I find myself either really enjoying it, or not liking it at all, sometimes within the same 3 minute stretch. So plenty of it is great, but lots of it isn’t, and very often tracks that invoke opposite reactions are sat beside each other. The way that they’re able to pull from house, garage, dubstep & techno in an effort to break down such barriers is great to see, but it’s just not executed as well as it needs to be, and the weak points distract from what is at times a brilliant, forward-thinking mix.
68: FabricLive.57: Jackmaster
Jackmaster’s Fabriclive mix starts off with a refreshingly cheesy approach, with a string of classic disco-house in a retro Chicago vibe. If you’re interested in dance music history it’s guaranteed to get your juices flowing. Tracks are layered effectively , and the tune selection is pure joyous fun. But with how wide-ranging the mix eventually gets, it’s arguable that he stays on this tip for too long. The majority of the first 11 tracks are ancient, and although there are beauties such as Larry Heard’s ‘The Sun Can’t Compare‘, there are a couple that really show their age. But really, it’s when Jackmaster finally deviates from this style that problems begin to emerge. He has a preference for tracks with an aggressively clunky kick, which makes for quite a rough listen. Addison Groove is a routinely brilliant producer, but ‘Make Um Bounce‘ isn’t up to par. The mix into ‘Shake That Ass Bitch‘ doesn’t sound nice at all, and why he chose to include 2 tracks from novelty rap act Splack Pack is a complete mystery. It’s bizarre that a hero of the new millennium should sound more comfortable playing 90s warehouse tunes than more current selections. When he takes a halftime detour through steppers from Hudson Mohawke and Machinedrum it’s fantastic, whilst DJ Funk’s ‘Pussy Ride‘ which follows is undeniably shit. The final pairing of Skepta with Radiohead is inspired, but it doesn’t make you forget quite how inconsistent this mix has been. It feels like it was made up completely on the fly, which is certainly a quality you want in a DJ, but given the time and effort that’s gone into other editions of the series, it’s to his detriment.
67: FabricLive.72: Boys Noize
The opening ditty from Mr. Oizo and Marilyn Manson does a pretty good job of summing up Boys Noize’s entry in the series; in your face, but a bit unnecessary. He moves through tracks at a breakneck pace, rarely letting one play for more than 2 minutes, not allowing many of them the chance to shine until the very end of the mix. There is a real range considering it’s a strict techno set; from Robert Hood to Four Tet to Randomer, a lot of ground is covered very, very quickly, but it prevents many tracks from truly standing out. Surprisingly, the Skrillex collaboration ‘Chella Ride‘ is a proper highlight, providing a much needed break from the 4/4 thud of the rest of the mix. If proof were needed that it’s moved too fast, then the 7 minute Chemical Brothers & Spank Rock mashup that hits near the end is it. An incredibly effective piece of big room tension, it’s the focal point of the mix, an enormous crescendo that leaves everything that came previously in its wake. Similarly, the glitched-up acoustic remix of Apparat’s ‘Arcadia‘ is bizarre and beautiful in equal measure and a perfect respite after the onslaught that’s just occurred. But for the most part it’s high-energy rave music, with plenty of excitement. Teenagers should love it. A discerning techno fan, maybe not.
66: FabricLive.55: DJ Marky
Opening with a beautiful clip of a Danny Elfman score, Marky’s mix stays on a glorious cinematic tip for the first handful of tracks, but quickly starts to feel quite flat. Though the dubplate version of monster hit ‘Bright Lights‘ will raise a smile, it’s not a patch on the original, and you can’t help but feel that with such a strong reputation Marky should have been able to provide something more exciting than this, or at least more emotionally resonant. The beat juggle on ‘Section‘ makes for a decent listen, but Marky is known for his scratching, which only features briefly on this mix. Individually the tracks are very pretty, and they’re often layered cleverly, but this mix is based pretty much entirely on simple rollers, without any real peaks and troughs apart from the opening. Even though it does get more aggressive towards the mid-point, it’s still built on that rolling structure, and there are no surprises when it comes to rhythm. Worse still, many of the tracks don’t warrant how long they’re left to run for, as they just aren’t interesting enough. All in all, it comes off as very average. When Marky breaks out the sunshine on ‘Mystic Sunset‘, it’s a screaming success, but his signature style has only popped up on a handful of tracks. It’s a real shame he didn’t focus more on what gave him a name in the first place.
65: FabricLive.14: DJ Spinbad
The strictest hip-hop set in the series, this edition features some of the best turntablism ever heard on a Fabric mix. Beginning with a seriously smooth flow, this looks set to be a sick 70 minutes. The way Spinbad mixes into ‘Ante Up‘ is nothing short of legendary, but it also spells the beginning of the end. This track is a true battle weapon, and it arrives far, far too early. When Spinbad is introducing us to less familiar tunes it’s sublime, and when he beat juggles and scratches, it’s incredible. But before we’ve even reached the half way point the tracklist is starting to look like Now That’s What I Call Hip-Hop Vol. 1. Spinbad probably wasn’t that familiar with the ethos of Fabric, but a commercially released mix CD ought to be used as a chance to say something new. Plenty of these tracks are among the most well known hip-hop records ever released. Which is a shame, as this is obviously mixed by an extremely talented DJ with great taste. The final two cuts are lesser known and show the mix really finding its feet, but by this point it’s too late. Unfortunately, the urge to please just got in the way.
64: FabricLive.18: Andy C & DJ Hype
First of all look at those credits. Then note the release date (2004). In 2017, a back to back set from these two could sell out any venue in the country, and since their popularity has only grown since this release, any fan of drum ‘n’ bass will have heard something more recent from each of them. The difference between where they are now, and where they were is dramatic. This mix lacks the overblown emotion of recent Ram releases, as well as the rhythmic weirdness of Playaz. The tracklist is also surprisingly sparse, with most tracks running for at least 3 minutes. Even though this is presumably an all-vinyl set, it’s still odd that the mixing isn’t quicker. This dates the CD considerably, as even though the music is quick as anything it still requires quite an attention span. However, as a classic dnb set there’s a lot of fun to be had here. The clownstep drop into track 7 is masterful, and although there’s not a lot to confound your expectations, there’s great scratching, great beat-juggling, and solid blending. Apart from the truly irritating Hype dubplates, the major fault with this mix is that it comes off as being quite indistinctive. Considering the credentials of the men involved, there’s little in the way of variation and character. The bar for dnb mixes has certainly been raised since 2004.
63: FabricLive.29: Cut Copy
You don’t have to know a huge amount about post-2000s disco to recognise that this isn’t as good as it gets. Known much better for their productions than their DJ prowess, Cut Copy’s mix for Fabric sounds exactly as you’d expect from an indie-disco mix in 2006, and rather than surprising, it borders on cliché a little too often. It’s blended well, but it’s made less impressive because the tracks are so similarly constructed. That’s not to say it wouldn’t get you moving and emotional in a club, but it just refuses to do anything that you don’t expect. One thing you can say is that they never leave a track so long that it becomes boring, but they will cut a good one short. The first truly exciting moment is track 9 ‘Out The Door‘ which has a really insistent groove and huge depth, but it’s cut prematurely. A couple more minutes and the drop into Daft Punk’s ‘Face To Face‘ could have been fantastic. There are missteps with Tiga’s not very good version of Soulwax’s ‘E Talking‘, and Sonic Youth covering Madonna in a moment of peak hipster irony. Fortunately the mixing out of ‘Into The Groovey‘ is sublimely done. From here on out, it’s a lot more interesting and fun than the opening stretch, and very, very danceable, with good tunes being given the time they need. If only it had started this way.
62: FabricLive.08: Plump DJs
This mix from Plump DJs starts on such a high that it never quite reaches that peak again. ‘From Home (Hexadecimal Remix)‘ has everything you could want from a funky breaks track, and gets the mix off to such a blinding start that most of what comes afterward seems somewhat flat in comparison. Built on rolling breaks with generally subtle basslines, the next real highlight is the Plumps own ‘Squeaks and Bleeps‘, which does precisely what it says on the tin. But most of the rest bobs along inoffensively. Funky indeed, but a lot of it is more suited to the background of a driving game than to lose your shit to at a rave. Whilst the first half retains a fun air, the second half gets deep and moody. But even with this change of mood, little takes you by surprise. Breakdowns occur when you’d expect, and much of the mix is spent in suspense. In some cases, this is great, such as Soul Of Man’s ‘The Drum‘, but there’s a large mid-section which isn’t as engaging. The Plumps own contributions tend to rank among the best tunes on the disc, such as the awesome ‘Electric Appliances‘ remix, but much of the rest is pretty indistinctive, which actually makes Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love‘ a very welcome surprise at the end.
61: FabricLive.81: Monki
Whilst it won’t blow your mind, Monki’s mix fits in a solid range of styles into her chunky house framework. It tips its cap to the underground whilst also acknowledging cheesy 90s clichés, such as pianos, divas and warm string pads. Whilst the mixing is nothing special, there’s an insistent groove and bounce to most of the tunes on here, which feels friendly even when the melodic content is darker. Some of the 4/4 percussive tracks are a bit indistinctive, but they’re often followed by something tremendously funky. Far and away the best cuts are the 2 dubplates from Chimpo & Slick Don, and I dare say the mix could have been massively improved with another couple of guest spots. A lot of the tracks do amble along without saying a huge amount; Monki’s really at her best when flipping from style to style rather than simply rolling through repetitive house numbers, which accounts for a huge stretch in the middle. It’s not an exciting mix, but it is decently fun even if it doesn’t have much of an arc to it.
60: FabricLive.28: Evil Nine
Evil Nine’s niche seems to be injecting breaks with a heavy rock influence and keeping things very, very tense. Tracks are left to roll for much longer than you might expect from a breaks mix, the opener lasting 6 and a half minutes. Even the tongue-in-cheek ‘Ready To Uff (Dub)‘ comes of as somehow threatening. It does begin to get warmer as the mix continues, but it evolves extremely slowly. One flaw is that Evil Nine absolutely refuses to do anything clever with the mixing, and although the tracks are sequenced well, it is just one track after another with no showing off. The selection is solid; they work together to paint a consistent mood. But it’s rarely exciting until the end. Paul Woolford’s amazing ‘Erotic Discourse‘ is always a standout, but for the most part it’s a series of dirt-driven loops repeated to oblivion. Some of them are catchy as fuck, some aren’t. The Digitalism remix of ‘Technologic‘ gives the mix a much needed kick in the teeth, and the glitched out Franz Ferdinand that follows is awesome. It’s with this screwed up rock where Evil Nine really wins, but it took a damn long time to get there. The penultimate track, Adam Freeland’s remix of ‘Nowhere Girl‘ absolutely soars, and saves the mix from being a wasted journey, rounding off cleverly with ‘London Calling‘.
59: FabricLive.04: Deadly Avenger
Kicking off with ‘We Took Pelham‘, an orchestral cut every bit as brilliant as Rob D’s ‘Clubbed To Death‘, Deadly Avenger then slides into a madcap gangsta rap mashup from DJ LBR which sets the true tone of the mix. The remainder is a sample junkie’s feast, with tons of well known licks, and filtered Funkadelic loops. It’s a great party mix, but what frustrates is that very little of the chopping, changing and turntablism is actually being done by the man behind the decks. If you don’t know a huge amount about DJing, then you might think there’s a formidable display of talent here, but the mix consists primarily of pre-made mashups by other artists, not Avenger himself. The fake crowd noise running through ‘Let Me Clear My Funk‘ is pretty unnecessary too. Despite being a little try hard with the G-Funk angle, the rootsy funk and disco of the second half is more agreeable. It loses steam towards the end, as we’re treated to similar mashups as the beginning of the mix, and it would have been nice if we’d built somewhere else by this point. But it’s poppy, fun and refreshingly light-hearted compared to most other mixes in the series.
58: FabricLive.88: Flava D
Before the end of the intro, we’ve been treated to dark atmospherics, low-slung basslines, rave keys, and beach-soaked guitar, almost as a microcosm of the record as a whole. Of the 30 tracks on the mix, there’s not a bad egg, though there are moments where the template gets samey. If there is a problem, it’s that once we’ve swung from abrasive grime to sweet diva vocals, there are only so many times we can go back and forth. D Double E’s cries of ‘Oh my god‘ grow tiresome quickly, and the bass led tracks often feel too similar, but when she does hit the mark, she really hits it. D’s range of production is definitely impressive, but we’re left wondering how good this edition could have been as a TQD threeway with touring partners Royal-T and DJ Q. The question Flava D is pitching with this mix, is how much range you can cram into a garage template. The answer sadly is not a lot, but she gives it a damn good go.
57: FabricLive.51: The Duke Dumont
Perfectly pleasant. Even though this was recorded several years prior to his breakout, Duke is a poster boy for a certain brand of Radio 1 favoured house, which I tend to find uninteresting and flat, so I came to this mix expecting to like it much less than I did. In actuality it’s 13 perfectly passable tunes mixed smoothly and competently. It never gets truly exciting, but it avoids becoming too boring either, despite most tracks rolling along for around 6 minutes without much change. Chords and basslines repeat and become hypnotic, and they tend to be catchy enough that you’re willing them to keep on going. This is the sound that the masses latched onto once they finally got fed up of brostep, but in 2010 ‘deep house’ was only just starting to become the buzzword it eventually became, and this mix feels like it has genuine love and appreciation of the sound behind it. All that said I fail to see how anyone could be blown away by this. It’s all incredibly average and normal up until Green Velvet’s clunky ‘They Came From Outer Space‘. Duke’s remix of Late Of The Pier which follows is genuinely interesting, and shows that his taste must be more eclectic than he’s let on so far. Shortly after, a track from Ieyasu Tokugama comes in that is truly experimental, but it doesn’t provide a peak. Nor does any other point of the mix. It’s almost impressive, if a bit unsatisfying. The closing duo from Floating Points and Idioma are absolutely stunning, and round the set off beautifully.
56: FabricLive.24: Diplo
Before becoming the chart bothering EDM titan he is today, Diplo cut his teeth as a wildly eclectic selector. On this disc the genre-hopping doesn’t always work, but he sees connections where most would miss them, and it’s occasionally wonderful. Within then first 10 minutes we’ve had sweet r’n’b, dirty hip-hop, and classic electro. The way that he introduces Yazoo’s ‘Don’t Go‘ is decidedly dodgy, as it waivers out of time and key, and it spells the beginning of an irritating 80s detour. When he heads back to some wordless instrumental cuts it’s much better, but the pop inclusions grate. From ‘Windowlicker‘ onwards, he flip-flops from classic to classic through a great range of genres and eras. The international section is unfortunately just as infuriating as the electro-pop selections from earlier, but the mix returns to form with a contribution from Wiley & Jammer with a backing that sounds like a 70s spy flick. After coming to a halt, Diplo begins the most inspired stretch of the mix, layering Outkast’s brilliant ‘Bombs Over Baghdad‘ over The Cure’s ‘Lovesong‘. From here on out, each selection gets faster, and brings something completely new to the table. A whole mix moving at this pace would make for a pretty disorientating listen, but this is really where Diplo shines. And as annoying as certain points in this mix were, it’s still a hell of a lot more bearable than what you might expect from him today.
55: FabricLive.10: Fabio
I’ve tried to not compare editions of this series to one another, but I always think of Fabio & Grooverider as a pair. Despite following his partner’s FabricLive by less than a year, Fabio’s edition is in every way superior. It’s better mixed, with a much, much stronger identity. This is liquid funk with a heavy soul influence, not withstanding the occasional bit of tearout. Though the tunes generally run for 4 or 5 minutes, most of them warrant it as they evolve rather than being simple loops. Fabio also layers tracks a lot better than his compadre, with a keen ear for when a breakdown will truly work (High Contrast & M.I.S.T.’s ‘3 A.M.‘ a key example). One complaint that isn’t the fault of the selector is that there’s a hell of a lot less bass than you’d expect, and it all sounds quite tinny. The other misstep is that Fabio utilises a couple of tunes (‘Squash‘, ‘The Mexican‘) which had already been used in early editions from Hype and Grooverider, which is pretty lazy when there’s only 15 tracks. But there are also standouts which you can’t imagine fitting on the other dnb editions, such as ‘So Nice (Summer Samba)‘ and ‘Flow With Me‘. These choices really sell Fabio’s mix as unique, and it’s just a shame its been so poorly mastered, as it’s missing a certain oomph which is definitely there in the records.
54: FabricLive.47: Toddla T
Goddamn it. The only FabricLive to feature an MC (a good one at that) and his voice is fed through an aggravating autotune. It’s a bad start to what is at times a great mix. Toddla T attempts a complete 360 degree look at the bass music culture of 2009, and it’s impressively far reaching. Opening with a stretch of British dancehall, it’s a tempo that has barely been covered in the series, with great results. There’s not an ounce of gloom; the klaxons throughout make perfect sense, and Toddla’s own ‘Fill Up Mi Portion‘ is utterly hilarious. After a joyous inclusion from Roots Manuva, Toddla unexpectedly takes the mix into jungle overdrive. It’s too fast too soon, and couldn’t be more disruptive, but you have to give him points for trying. Say what you like, it’s definitely not boring. We’re swiftly dropped at a pacey fidget house tempo, and the incessant autotuned chanting starts to really grate. Very quickly, the selections become irritating and indistinctive. Rather than one song having a great melody, another having a solid bassline, the speed garage selections try to do it all at once, with little success. Serocee begins to struggle without an actual crowd in tow. When the beats get more spacious the mix improves dramatically, with Lady Chann’s ‘Sticky Situation‘ almost good enough to make you forget what came before. The final few tracks round the mix off very nicely, in particular the poem from Benjamin Zephaniah. So the mix starts and ends strong, with a very weak mid section that smacks of a DJ trying to run before he can walk. Which makes sense for a 24 year old called Toddla.
53: FabricLive.31: The Glimmers
After an off-putting rework of Roxy Music which is far too camp to handle, The Glimmers settle into some much more agreeable dub influenced disco. Considering the bold opener, it’s surprising how tense and insistent they choose to remain, only reaching the dramatic heights of that first track with the inclusion of Freddy Mercury and some orchestra hits half way through the mix. The second half really messes with the formula, taking us through retro hip-hop electro, an awesome scat acapella, and abandoning that continuous groove for a dub detour. Though the tracks selected are genuinely great, this change in direction makes little to no sense based on what we’ve heard so far, and with the samba breakdown that follows, the boys throw out the rulebook completely. Honestly, the end of the disc sounds like they’ve gotten pissed off with an unresponsive audience, and abandoned any attempt at mixing in favour of playing whatever the hell they like. Commendable in the flesh, but a very weird choice on CD.
52: FabricLive.23: Death In Vegas
Through varied tempos and sounds, the Death In Vegas mix ends up being one of the more interesting techno mixes from Fabric, including the sister series. It pays an enormous debt to Kraftwerk, with a vintage sound throughout. Eschewing the colossal 4/4 thud of most techno, the drum patterns remain relatively light throughout, whilst synthesisers flesh the music out, all with a faintly creepy air. Melodies repeat whilst the synth sounds gradually mutate, shifting in intensity. Some tracks roll for only a minute or two, whilst others are left to evolve for over 7. This variation helps to prevent the mix from getting dull, an inherent risk with techno. The transition into Alex Cortex’s ‘Phlogiston‘ is totally disarming; it’s out of sync with the record that precedes it, and takes you off guard when you have to adjust to where the new beat falls. And yet somehow, it works so much better than it would have if they were in sync. The highlight of the mix is Mathew Jonson’s ‘Marionette‘, in which a simple pair of synth lines repeat for over 7 minutes, without ever resolving. The texture morphs, but the melody always remains the same. It’s incredibly effective, beautiful, and totally sinister. The mix never reaches this peak again, and towards the end starts to get more playful. But when the melody becomes less eerie, the repetition becomes much less effective. The last third of this mix is sadly nowhere near as interesting as that which came before it, and becomes quite dull, but it’s worth listening to for ‘Marionette‘ alone.
51: FabricLive.80: Mumdance
Surely the most balls-out experimental edition of the series, Mumdance opens with a series of contrasting noise pieces, twisting your sense of space with mad amounts of reverb and distortion. Thing is, the first 3 tracks do such a good job of this that it makes the next few selections kind of redundant. When the claps finally emerge during track 6, there’s an enormous sense of relief. But even though there’s now a beat, you’d hardly class much of what follows as dance music. There’s a tremendous amount of space between the beats, and the whole work seems to be designed to increase tension. This refusal to play anything resembling normal club music is truly difficult; I want to like it, but Mumdance is willing me not to. When the mix tumbles into another stretch of ambientcore half way through, we haven’t had a single piece of truly danceable music. Which in its own way is kind of awesome, if infuriating. After about 40 minutes a dubplate from Novelist gives us cause to move, even if the only rhythm comes from the vocals. All this tension finally explodes into something positively groovy on Eastwood & Oddz ‘Coalition‘. It only took 22 tracks to get there, but now we’re bouncing. For a mere 2 tracks. Then, in the most bizarre twist of all, we’re treated to 4 early 90s piano led hardcore tracks. With such a harrowing first hour, this most cheesy of music feels incredibly cold. What exactly Mumdance was trying to achieve with all this is very difficult to ascertain. If you like to be challenged, it’s well worth your time. Just never, ever throw it on in a social setting.
50: FabricLive.13: J Majik
With a south American carnival feel, J Majik’s entry manages to be totally in your face whilst also remaining cheeky enough to never feel aggressive or threatening. It’s a mood which helps him really stand out from the pack, and is an early highlight in the series. The sequencing and mixing tends to be smoothly done, and there’s a good variation of mood, lightening up when it gets too hard, and toughening up when it gets too close to cheesy. As with many of the early drum ‘n’ bass editions it sounds dated, but this matters less than usual due to the real strong sense of identity and personality running through the mix. There are plenty of highlights, including the updated version of Pascal’s ‘P Funk‘, the joyful ‘Hold Tight‘, the disruptive ‘Kammin‘, and the unbeatable ‘Bandwagon Blues‘. The Calibre track towards the end saves the mix from becoming an onslaught, and a couple more cuts like this might have been a good idea. It’s a tiring listen, but mighty impressive for 2003, as it hasn’t lost anywhere near as much power as other mixes from the same time period.
49: FabricLive.53: Drop The Lime
There’s no shortage of fun on Drop The Lime’s entry, as the second track onwards is pure squelchy nonsense, and although this release is steeped in the inherent darkness of UK club music it stays self-aware, knowing that the sounds of today will sound dated before too long, so you may as well embrace the inherent stupidity and sprinkle in some silly sound effects. It’s nice to see how well our island is represented on this disc being that he’s an NYC native; he seems to have a real appreciation of UK bass culture, with plenty of names from our side of the pond. And though the mix may get intense at times, it always lightens up again. The old school rave references side by side with more forward thinking tunes place the mix smack in the middle of where we’ve been, and where we’re going. Of course, it’s 7 years old now, and the mix is heavily rooted in the fidget house trend that was huge at the time, but that was a damn fun time for music, even if it wasn’t a particularly clever one. After the irritating ‘Sex Sax‘, Drop The Lime takes a turn in a bizarre direction with two rockabilly hits from the 50s as a small breather. It makes no real sense, but it does massively lighten the mood before the more chaotic second half. Truth is, it doesn’t stand up next to the beginning. The percussive numbers are groovy but empty, the dubstep is pretty weak, and Drop The Lime’s own contributions are too similar to what we’ve already heard. But overall it contains something that a lot of these mixes miss. Fun.
48: FabricLive.90: Kahn & Neek
Having put out Caspa & Rusko’s genre-defining mix in 2007, Fabric chose to wait almost an entire decade before releasing another straight dubstep mix. It’s understandable why, but I personally think it’s a shame, as the genre has a lot of mileage if you know where to look. Way before 2016, the sound split into 2 very distinct camps, one pushing for authenticity, one for teenage aggression. Kahn & Neek are purveyors of the former. The mix begins with a couple of beautiful beatless cuts before ‘Nuke The Threat‘ gives us a groove as slow as a glacier. The next cut ‘Shaitan‘ is abrasive, disruptive, and completely undanceable, but we then settle into familiar 140bpm territory. The lyrical contributions throughout are phenomenal, proving that dubstep lends itself perfectly to real political depth. A lot of the instrumental tracks blend into one, and don’t leave much of an impression, but there are exceptions. Gantz’ ‘Temple Meads‘ leads you in with what you think is the bassline, and then it drops a whole octave. Boofy’s ‘LVX93‘ has a similarly enormous sub. Really though, this mix would be little without the vocals, as the beats are so sparse that all the danceable rhythms are provided by the toasting (‘Hold It Up‘ the best example). It’s also the emotion of the MCs that makes the mix; Spaceape sounds positively venomous on ‘Fuckaz‘, and Rider Shafique sounds mournful and wise. Whenever the mix rolls for too long without vocals, it starts to feel empty, and it becomes obvious why Fabric waited so long to release another dubstep mix. It’s simply not that great to dance to. To really get the most out of this mix, you have to be the right level of stoned; stoned enough that all you want to do is gently bob, but not so stoned that you’re feeling paranoid, because music this dark sure won’t save you.
47: FabricLive.60: Brodinski
The first thing to note is that this does not feel like a headline mix, and much more like the warmup. Starting at a very pedestrian 118bpm, this begins as a sensitive subdued set. Plenty of tracks are used as tools to get from one key point to the next, rather than every tack aiming to be a standout. The mix intensifies towards its midpoint, employing crescendos and repetitions to transform gradually into a more obvious club set. But there’s remarkable restraint throughout, as many of the transitions take minutes to come to fruition. Above all, it’s the use of vocals that really captures. Sometimes in snatches, sometimes full verses, sometimes whispers, it feels as though Brodinski is using much of the mix to tell a kind of tragic love story, coming to a final peak with Switch’s beautiful ballad ‘I Still Love You‘, before riding out in an acid techno styley. All in all, it’s a beautiful mix, as well as being refreshingly modest.
46: FabricLive.64: Oneman
This mix is very much of its time, featuring some of the most respected underground names from the start of this decade. So if you were following the future garage scene at this time, you’ll be familiar with a fair number of these tunes. Whether this saves or hinders is difficult to determine, but it’s indicative of how few risks Oneman takes on this mix. The music is all great, there’s no denying that. It’s just that none of it really surprises you. The transitions are all perfectly smooth, but there aren’t that many curveballs, which is really surprising since he’s not a producer, and his reputation rests solely on his DJing prowess. The wobbly ‘Salsa‘ is one of the weirder, more arresting moments, with Pearson Sound’s ‘Untitled‘ mixing beautifull out of it. But if there had been more weirdness, more tension, then the payoff would have been incredible. The mix does stand out as unique whenever Oneman veers back to some much older material such as Nu-Birth’s ‘Anytime‘. The juxtaposition between the old and the new is great to hear, and gives the mix its real character. There are also tracks like Boddika’s ‘Soul What VIP‘ or Joy Orbison’s ‘Ellipsis‘ which roll so well that you don’t want them to end. Unfortunately they do, and the best tracks are given as much time as the weaker ones.
45: FabricLive.87: Groove Armada
With productions as far-reaching as their back catalogue suggests, it comes as a surprise to see Groove Armada delivering such a strict set. Whilst for most DJs a FabricLive might be the peak of their career, for these boys it’s more of a footnote. Groove Armada have nothing to prove, so rather than trying to blow anyone’s heads off, they use the mix purely as an exploration of their love for house music, and the mix veers between gorgeous fashionable choices, and dull plodding ones. It’s almost an anti-headline set, and the distance between Groove Armada in the club, and Groove Armada on the main stage is cavernous. The vocal track ‘Move On‘ is the first song distinctive enough to call a highlight, and it also marks the point at which the tune selection gets a bit more interesting. Is still requires the patience of a saint, but there are more treats. The second half has a series of absolutely beautiful numbers, such as ‘Cielo (Bicep Remix II)‘ and ‘Can Love Find Its Way‘. Some have argued that a good mix should song like one long piece of music rather than several individual tracks stitched together, and in that respect it’s a massive success. But if you come to this mix because you’re a fan of ‘Superstylin‘, ‘At The River‘, or even ‘Chicago‘, expect to be let down.
44: FabricLive.09: Jacques Lu Cont
By all accounts, this tracklisting should be too eclectic to work, and yet it’s oddly brilliant. The opening stretch is the opposite of a snob’s set, with each tune built around a cheesy, knowing sense of fun, and despite it sounding totally retro, you can picture it working in an enormous club. Jacques gets us to peak time energy within just a few short tracks, and quickly dials back again during Steve Miller Band’s ‘Abracadabra‘. More than any other early FabricLive (with the obvious exception of John Peel), we’re taken through an enormous range of moods, and in a very sensitive manner. ‘Gold Is Your Metal‘ is incredibly soft and beautiful, but it avoids being in any way boring because of what’s come before. After the stunning Röyksopp remix, Jacques pauses the mix in its tracks, dropping from the 2001: A Space Odyssey theme into ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)‘. How on earth he pulls such a bizarre turn off succesfully is impossible to put into words, but he manages. It’s the consistent twists, turns and surprises that set this one apart from other early editions of the series, and they continue right through until the very end.
43: FabricLive.16: Adam Freeland
The range of influences explored within the first stretch of this mix is impressive, sitting somewhere between rock, breaks, hip-hop and electro, all maintaining a dark and tense mood. The rhythm begins incredibly straight, but gradually starts to welcome some funky inflections. A single note held for over 4 minutes throughout ‘Crooked‘ gives a really effective sense that we’re building towards something, which finally begins to flourish when the heavily reverberated guitars kick in during the next tune. The several track buildup comes to a head with the immortal ‘We Want Your Soul‘ line, before Freeland drops the tempo and lightens the mood. The tempo drop is drawn out for much longer than it needs to, but it’s ultimately worth it, as the transition into the ever-reliable Bassbin Twins track is fantastic, in part due to the flecks of vocals from previous tracks. I do think the mix suffers by culminating a lengthy buildup in a lower tempo, but when the mix gets even slower for Freeland’s ‘Burn The Clock‘ it’s a winner, the perfect midpoint between all the aforementioned genres. Having nailed it with this choice, we’re then brought up to the tempo we started at. This constant tempo flipping does start to grate, because as soon as you’re getting into a groove, it’s suddenly uprooted. However, there’s a distinct lack of filler. Disjointed perhaps, but there aren’t any dud tracks. The dnb cut from Origin Unknown is a particular highlight, sounding surprisingly up to date for 2004.
42: FabricLive.11: Bent
Arriving at a time when downtempo artists ruled the UK electronic scene, Bent’s instalment is a joyful range of deep disco spanning the decades. After opening with a glittering intro, and a soft cut from Giorgio Moroder, the mix slides into a series of warm, subdued, synth driven tunes, all blended superbly. If the mix had continued in this vein until the end, I’d probably have ranked it lower, but the pedestrian first half perfectly sets up the second half, kicked off with Tim ‘Love’ Lee’s ‘Touch It‘. The bass gets deeper, the groove gets sexier, and we’re placed in a higher gear. The cheesy ‘Magic’s Wand‘ is a hilarious highlight, and the light-hearted mood continues right through to the end. The balance between deep gorgeous disco, and more tongue in cheek choices is charming, and gives this mix a real strong identity. The final two cuts are older, triumphant, and almost gospel. If you can take it a bit camp, then it doesn’t get much better.
41: FabricLive.34: Krafty Kuts
Not one for sublety, Krafty kicks off with a bombastic intro featuring scratching, hype calls from Dynamite MC and a big fat bassline, before kicking off the actual mix with some serious funk from partner in crime A.Skillz. It’s only a couple of minutes before we’re in familiar breaks territory. What separates Krafty from others with a similar style is that he’s fully aware this is first and foremost party music. He even flat out takes the piss out of the sister series, with a track claiming to be more minimal than anything else. ‘Listen to my tick-tick-tocks‘. All this goes to show you can be a part of the underground without being a snob. From this point on things start to get a lot more catchy. The music on this CD isn’t clever, or particularly varied, and it’s all built on predictable breakdowns and buildups. But it should remind you that breaks really is one of the most straight up fun genres to take over the electronic scene. Krafty’s collaborations tend to be among the best tunes on the disc, and there’s a large chunk of tunes towards the middle that aren’t particularly memorable. The latin samba ‘Takin’ Over‘ kicks us back into gear, and from this point on the mix retains its glorious cheese, hitting its final peak when all the key elements combine on ‘There They Go‘. A deep sawtooth, a soaring lead line and fantastic bars from Dynamite. Though it dipped in the mid-section, this is still a top party record. Not one to challenge your ears, but perfect for the gym or the weekend.
40: FabricLive.25: High Contrast
Holy crap this one is fun. Hands in the air rave moments from the off, it’s difficult to believe drum ‘n’ bass used to be this joyous. And what makes this more impressive is that these aren’t High Contrast’s own productions. Only the last cut is from the man himself, instead using the CD as a platform to expose the work of his peers to a wider audience. His choices are impeccably bright, with a real keen ear for harmonic blending. Much of it is cheesy as hell but that’s kind of the point. It’s got the same over the top mood as early 90s rave, but through a post-2000s jungle lens. You can hear the MDMA. Admittedly, it sounds a bit dated now; it’s tiring listening to the whole thing, and it’s probably a good thing that drum ‘n’ bass has loosened up since then. But it does make you miss stuff like this, and plenty of it is genuinely beautiful music. ‘Hell Hath No Fury‘ in particular is a stunner.
39: FabricLive.20: Joe Ransom
Kicking off with the cheekiest turntable edit, Joe Ransom’s mix begins with a blistering journey round dancehall and bhangra influenced hip-hop. Featuring a very youthful Rodney P, Roots Manuva, Ty and Yungun, this really is a tour round the very best UK hip-hop from the turn of the century. Each track gets progressively funkier and together they paint a truly multicultural picture of Britain. It’s a flawless mix until the breaks section begins. The tune selection is solid enough, even if these tracks haven’t aged as well as the hip-hop. The problem is the pacing, as Joe allows pretty much every track to run for its full duration. This is an odd choice since breaks is so much easier to mix, and lends itself to quick cutting and layering much more than hip-hop. So in comparison to the first half, it just seems a little dull. It’s by no means bad, but it’s nowhere near as unique as the beginning, and sounds a lot like many other early FabricLives. The superb closer from Dynamite MC makes it obvious. With just a few more hip-hop jams chucked in, and the same breaks tunes mixed a bit quicker, this could have been one of the best.
38: FabricLive.30: Stanton Warriors
There’s something effortlessly cool about the Stantons’ sound. Case in point: the monologue running through ‘Club Therapy‘ at the beginning of the mix blasting the superclub aesthetic. Where the Stantons really succeed is in their ability to pick and compose tracks with such substance that they can roll for 4 or 5 minutes without an ounce of boredom. This mix doesn’t pack in a broad range of styles, rather it shows an exemplary mastership of a very particular style. A little bit sleazy, a little bit hip-hop, a little bit electro, and a little bit breaks. The mix ramps up the intensity throughout, with Rodney P and Million Dan’s contribution providing some serious peak time energy. To call it samey would almost be missing the point. Tracks melt into one another only when they’ve said all they can, and the groove is irresistible even 10 years later.
37: FabricLive.37: Caspa & Rusko
Where were you when you first heard FabricLive.37? It’s difficult to overstate the importance of this release. Spawning an unbelievable number of shit imitators in the years that followed, this was the wider world’s introduction to brostep, and pulled the trigger on countless forum arguments about what was and wasn’t ‘real‘ dubstep. But is it any good? We begin with Caspa’s half, which is more subdued. The first 4 tracks are absolute beauties with a clear dub influence, but Rusko’s ‘Jahova‘ marks the switching point. It still sounds enormous, and has to be one of the best tunes from this era. From this point on, it’s all wobbly LFOs and bass growls. Compared to the likes of Flux Pavilion, Excision & Datsik, it actually sounds quite earthy and deep. There are plenty of duds, and some of the mixing is terrible, but the standouts (‘Africa VIP‘, ‘Well ‘Ard‘, ‘Guru‘) really do remind you why the world went nuts for this sound. After the peak tune ‘Cockney Thug‘ (and the Buraka Som Sistema version) the wobble does start to grow tiresome, and it was a good move ending on a series of more emotional selections. So there’s plenty of filler, lots of jarring transitions, and it’s responsible for the most irritating music genre to achieve massive success. But damn, it just brings back so many memories. Undoubtedly the most important CD in the series.
36: FabricLive.46: LTJ Bukem
LTJ Bukem’s entry is a stunning collection of beautiful jungle soundscapes. Outside of how gorgeous the whole thing is, the first thing you notice is Bukem’s unique and disruptive style of cutting from one record to another. Even though it doesn’t always work, it’s at least interesting to hear a style of DJing this distinctive. The other point to note, is that even if you’re a massive fan of liquid drum ‘n’ bass, you might not recognise any of the names on the tracklisting. They’re all artists that Bukem is nurturing on his own Good Looking imprint, which makes the mix that much more impressive. Despite the beats all following a standard amen pattern, the music is consistently brilliant, taking influence more from film soundtracks and soul than traditional junglist sounds. The mix does at times become very repetitive, as every track is allowed to roll until its completion, but the beauty of these tunes pulls you through and urges you to continue listening. Varied it certainly isn’t, but Bukem’s style is unique and totally recognisable. Although it might not sustain your attention for the full 70 minutes, it’s perfect if you want to be blown away by some truly gorgeous music that feels warm and friendly in a way that most dnb doesn’t.
35: FabricLive.58: Goldie
Whilst you’d be forgive for assuming that Goldie’s heyday was around 1995, he uses this mix to showcase both choice cuts from his Metalheadz catalogue, and some of the best dnb around. It’s a testament to his choices that he can let the second track ‘Celestial Navigation‘ roll for almost 5 minutes whilst keeping peak energy, and though the mood throughout is dark and harrowing, it’s brilliantly balanced with moments of light and beauty. By utilising the breakdowns in the tracks, the mix feels evil and oppressive without seeming overbearing. This clever use of dynamics gives the more hardcore moments so much more power. You may have heard tracks like Mutated Forms ‘Doubts‘ before now, but the way it’s introduced ramps the intensity up tenfold. The longer the note, the more dread. And just as we start to feel the aural fatigue of these 170+bpm tempos, Goldie masterfully drops the tempo, for just a couple of minutes, providing perfect breathing room before the final coda. This is not a party mix, it’s not a fun mix, but in terms of musicality it’s hard to beat.
34: FabricLive.69: Fake Blood
This is techno, but not in the normal sense. Despite having quite a strict remit on what constitutes the Fake Blood sound, there’s a real range in here. It all comes down to the name. Pretty much every track in here is creepy in one way or another, and the majority of the mix is rather unsettling, whilst still keeping the groove going. But every so often there’s a track so cheeky that it reminds you this is just music, and he’s just a DJ. All these feelings of discomfort are essentially fake. These cheeky tunes tend to be Fake Blood’s own remixes, with the rest of the mix functioning as a tense journey between these poppy peaks. Though he manages to cram a ton of tunes in here it always feels logical, and never too showy. Sometimes it’s full on, in your face, and experimental. Sometimes it’s heads down, bass and tom driven rollers. But when there’s a buildup the payoff is always awesome. I’d be lying if I said that every track felt like a standout, but we’re listening to a master of slow buildups, using several tunes in sequence to build up tension rather than single tracks. This is done towards the beginning of the mix, and then again for much, much longer during the second half. The mix is arguably frontloaded, with most of the biggest and best moments further towards the beginning. But the shift in mood throughout makes for a great listen.
33: FabricLive.15: Nitin Sawhney
Broken beats through an Indian lens. Though much better known as a composer/producer, Nitin takes a fantastic turn at DJing on this early edition of the series. It’s entertaining, evocative, emotional, and absolutely brimming with culture. The choice to transition to downtempo after only 3 tracks is fascinating, as is the decision to follow it up with a track in such an off time signature. With a song selection as eclectic as this, the mixing isn’t always on point, but the choices always are. If you’ve ever enjoyed Gilles Peterson’s show on 6music, this one will be right up your street. To hear selections this light and know that it came from Fabric is bizarre, and it makes me wonder how brilliant clubbing was back in 2004. That said, Sawhney is much better at choosing a wide variety of source material than he is at curating a proper rave atmosphere, so the broken breaks of Darqwan’s ‘Three Note Blue‘ feel a little unearned. Also, the sheer tragedy of the final two cuts would probably send me into a quivering meltdown in a club. But hearing the entire rand of British club music peppered with a desi twist makes for a brilliant, and wholly unique edition of the series.
32: FabricLive.35: Marcus Intalex
Fabric’s first true liquid funk mix is also one of its better ones. The amount of time Intalex lets tracks roll over one another is staggering, the transition between ‘All The Days‘ and ‘Global Enemies‘ lasting over 3 minutes. And seconds after the former has dropped out of the mix, the next track is being brought in. What’s more important though, is that this is a now beloved genre which up until this point had not been given a real chance to shine. Some of the tracks are pure bassline, but most are orchestral beauties, all with a rolling breakbeat and an influence sat right between dub, jazz and soul. When the rhythm has remained straight for just that bit too long, a jazzy loop in ‘Synesthesia‘ breaks the mold, and heightens the energy. ‘Clarendon‘ is a clear view into the future, as Breakage employs a twisted rhythm now ubiquitous with the likes of Dub Phizix and dBridge. From this broken down groove, Intalex takes his time getting back to jungle, refusing to let the mix ever truly explode, which is interesting up to a point, but after 70 minutes you kind of hope for more of a climax. Mist:i:cal’s ‘Groove Me‘ comes very, very close, but it takes a long time to get there. The impact of this mix has lessened since its release, and there have definitely been better subdued drum ‘n’ bass mixes in the series. But as an opening statement, it’s still pretty amazing.
31: FabricLive.66: Daniel Avery
If, like me, you struggle with techno, I highly recommend you give this one a go. Each track is selected for a few key elements, such as a flange effect or a simple loop, and they’re each given the perfect amount of time to evolve. The mix wears its influences on its sleeve with classic, familiar techno elements placed right at the forefront and there’s a real sense of warmth throughout. Avery is trying to guide, not startle, and new elements are introduced at the perfect point so that it’s repetitive, but never boring. The first peak comes with Simian Mobile Disco’s stunning ‘Supermoon‘ and although it comes early, it feels totally earned. A real masterstroke occurs not long after, when the mix is reduced to a few seconds of silence before launching into the full seven and a half minutes of Avery’s own epic, emotional ‘Water Jump‘. The sequencing for this mix is staggering, with a gift for knowing exactly when to let a tune ride out, and when to cut to the next. Anything that could be called filler still has a clear purpose. It’s difficult to explain how a DJ takes ownership of music they didn’t write, but that’s exactly what he does throughout. Simply put, it’s a phenomenal club set which actually conjures up images of the cavernous main room of Bristol’s In:Motion more than it does Fabric. And if Fabric closes again, that’s probably your best bet if you want an experience like this in the flesh.
30: FabricLive.03: DJ Hype
The first dnb edition of the series was rightfully put in the hands of Fabric’s longest constant resident, DJ Hype. Up until Fabric suffered the closure the monthly Playaz was a regular sell out event, instrumental in pushing the sound of drum ‘n’ bass forward, and this CD is a perfect time capsule justifying Hype’s importance. It’s nowhere near as dated as other jungle mixes from the same era, and despite only including 18 tracks, it really does keep your attention. This is mainly due to Hype’s ability to use techniques and effects to enhance the tunes. Within the first handful of tracks we’ve had beat-juggling, scratching and phasing effects, all with the utmost precision. I don’t have a clue how he achieves the pitch shift of ‘Planet Dust‘, but it sure as hell wasn’t done on a laptop. The scratching on ‘True Playaz Style‘ is made up of 2 different samples panned to the left and right, a technique so disorientating and effective that I was shocked I’d never heard it elsewhere. There’s remarkable balance here too; aggressive basslines are made bearable by rolling breaks and smooth, slow transitions. It’s a great deal more fun and tongue in cheek than you might expect from Hype. The opener ‘Thunderball‘ and DJ Zinc’s ‘Ska‘ are pretty light-hearted, and overall it’s a lot less serious than something you might hear today. And although there are moments of terrifying nastiness such as the claustrophobic ‘Nightmare Walking‘, it’s followed up by a Mist:i:cal track which is incredibly friendly. Hype strikes an amazing balance, and it’s a formidable achievement considering its age. There’s a wonderful mood arc to the mix, which wasn’t matched by a dnb mix until much, much later in the series.
29: FabricLive.39: DJ Yoda
DJ Yoda is one of only a handful of DJs happy to incorporate humour into his mixes, and he does it in heavy doses. After the most bombastic intro imaginable, he launches into a beefed up version of the Violent Femmes ‘Blister In The Sun‘, showing off that he’s not just a hip-hop fan, but a music fan. Most of the tracks in the mix could be called classics, and from an enormous range of genres. The tracklist is only really a rough guide, as familiar snippets of other tracks pop up left, right and centre. This can at times get a bit messy, but it also sounds authentic and very 90s. Yoda’s eclecticism often results in some pure gold, particularly ‘It’s All Love‘ by Ghost, a slice of fantastic electro-swing. But hip-hop is where he truly feels at home, with classic cuts from Gang Starr, Skibadee, and Ice Cube. After picking up the tempo with his Hervé collaboration, the mix begins to get a little absurd, based too firmly in the pop charts. The Chemical Brothers ‘Salmon Dance‘ has not gone down in history as an enduring single, and though ‘In The Morning is pleasant enough, it doesn’t really have any place in the walls of Fabric. The next stretch is pretty irritating, with deafening airhorns, wedding-suited 90s jams, and mindless baltimore. The inclusion of Minnie Ripperton’s ‘Lovin’ You‘ is so ridiculous that it succeeds, and thankfully, there’s a change of pace with a storming dnb re-rub of Collie Buddz ‘Come Around‘, leading into some slick bars from Sway, and a pair of jungle classics. But it’s arguable that this mix could have been improved by cutting away some of the genre-hopping and focussing squarely on hip-hop. That said, it’s the only mix in the series that will truly make you laugh out loud, and is a decent representation of one of the most original DJs there’s ever been.
28: FabricLive.61: Pinch
Pinch’s contribution to the series is a commendable exploration of the post-dubstep landscape of 2012. Much of it is unclassifiable; it could be described as techno, but only very loosely. The mixing between tracks is fantastic, with a huge amount of layering used to great effect. Distancing itself from becoming a straight up techno mix, the contribution from Prince Green on track 4 lands on us with a heavy and clear dub influence which feels completely unique. It’s neither techno nor dubstep, but it’s definitely somewhere in between. The following track from Pinch & Shackleton features bongos, and what sounds like a filtered church choir, and from this point on each choice gets progressively more innovative without ever losing that sense of rhythm and groove. Pinch balances the hard with the soft beautifully, choosing to lighten right up on ‘In Dreams‘ before toughing up again. After this opening stretch of techno, there’s a quick beatless cut, and then we’re into a stretch of clear cut dubstep, still very much in keeping with what we’ve heard so far. When people rant about the difference between brostep and ‘proper’ dubstep, this is probably the best example of the latter ever featured on a FabricLive CD. It’s dark, spacious, and restrained. We gradually go from half-time steppers to throbbing 140bpm almost-techno, with the always awesome Addison Groove’s ‘This Is It VIP‘. This dubstep stretch has more weak moments than the opening half hour, but it’s still of a very high quality, with tons of variation. The final two tracks drop back down to 130bpm, returning to the point at which we started. Overall, it makes for one of the more intriguing listens in the series, pushing the envelope without ever getting too experimental to groove to.
27: FabricLive.75: Elijah & Skilliam
Dubplates aplenty, Elijah & Skilliam deliver a smorgasbord of grime, garage and dubstep, with a strong emphasis on the party. For such a ruthlessly aggressive genre, this mix manages to keep a real strong air of fun to it. It’s clearly designed for the ladies as much as the men, with gorgeous pads and vocal snippets playing off against harder-edged bass driven numbers. The mixing isn’t too perfect, which actually helps it feel like you’re at the party. Any mix which features 3 tracks from Swindle is bound to be great, and when his first contribution ‘Good Stay Bad‘ smashes in, it pushes the feelgood factor into overdrive. Whilst Elijah & Skilliam clearly take their passion seriously, you can hear how much they must be grinning and bouncing behind the decks. They’re playing music that’s impossible not to move to. When the duo slows up to dubstep swagger with Preditah’s ‘Jack Up The Tune‘ this change of pace feels completely natural. Less so with the next tune ‘666 Sauna‘, as an ambitious double drop doesn’t come off too well, but they’re quickly back on track. There are a few moments throughout the mix where the duo layer tracks that don’t particularly work with one another, and there are also moments when it works sublimely. But the focus isn’t clever key matching. It’s about showing off the best of their scene whilst conjuring up a giddy, celebratory mood. And judged on those criteria, it’s a roaring success.
26: FabricLive.59: Four Tet
Four Tet occupies something of a godspace in musical circles, equally welcome headlining clubs such as Fabric and In:Motion as he is playing the Park Stage at Glastonbury. To match the reputation that precedes him, he had to pull it out of the bag. And boy does he get it right. Experimental yet completely danceable, this ends up being one of the warmest, most intimate and ultimately friendliest editions of the series. He’s challenging us, but not in an uncompromising way. Some cuts are rhythmically obscure broken beat, some are straight up UK garage, but it’s all woven together with a true DJs touch, which is particularly impressive since he’s much better known as a producer. Every DJ wants to feature a Burial track in their mix, but Four Tet makes it sound more natural than anyone else. When his own production ‘Pyramid‘ hits towards the end, it’s as if everything that came previously was leading up to this moment, the previous 50 minutes providing a perfect framework, and the 7 minute beauty rolls by in the blink of an eye. A real triumph.
25: FabricLive.62: Kasra
Though Kasra has a unique and recognisable sound, it’s not reducible to a single sub-genre. What it is, is the sound of his label Critical. The beginning of the mix is incredibly subdued, refusing to resort to a familiar rhythm until half way through track 5. It’s minimal and sparse, yet intricately complex and fast. ‘Oblique (VIP)‘ could make anyone feel mournful. Ever so slowly, the mix gets more aggressive and closer to a traditional drum ‘n’ bass template. The mixing is so carefully considered, that you don’t notice a song being faded in until suddenly it’s there, smacking you round the jaw. The mix calms right down briefly for Dub Phizix’s ‘Codec‘, before really getting into the harder-edged stuff. Kasra has a phenomenal sense of when to let a mid-song breather roll, and how to stitch songs together. When the huge bassline of Phace & Noisia’s ‘MPD‘ hits on track 18, it’s made a thousand times heavier by virtue of how long it took to get here. Whilst the beginning was meticulous and clever, the latter stretch hits like a freight train. Having taken so long to get to the real aggro stuff, the mix plateaus for the last stretch, but if you like dark sub groans then none of it will disappoint, and nothing will prepare you for the closing number from Stray. It’s the sense of patience that really sets Kasra apart from the pack. It’s nor something dnb has been known for, but he’s well on his way to changing that, as the label goes from strength to strength, and becomes well and truly Critical.
24: FabricLive.45: A-Trak
With DMC champs, it’s often the case that they’ll let technical flair get in the way of their tune selection. Not the case with A-Trak. Although the opening pair of tracks come with a scratch marathon and a monstrous beat juggle, neither get in the way of the mix. House classics from the preceding decade or so are matched according to key and mood to provide a perfect party soundtrack. Heavy on the filter disco sound, A-Trak displays acute awareness of the club itself, with plenty of UK names such as Skepta, Metronomy, Friendly Fires & DJ Zinc. ‘I’m The Ish‘ by DJ Class is the kind of mindless autotuned pap I would normally hate, but it’s so clear with its weekend intent that it actually works brilliantly. He’s a real tease with his abilities, always using them sparingly and appropriately. A-Trak lets the songs do the talking rather than his hands, with a fantastic string of buildups towards the centre of the mix. Just as it becomes tiresome, he drops the tempo right down for some emotional, hands in the air nu-disco moments. It’s an interesting move, as it flies in the face of the party vibe he’s set up for us so far, but it gives him the room to build us right back up before the end. It takes a while to get back to the catchy heights of the first half, regaining that feel during the final 3 cuts. During the closer, the classic ‘138 Trek‘, A-Trak reminds us that he’s one of the most innovative, musical turntablists in the game, and to be honest, it’s a mystery why he didn’t choose to show off a little more.
23: FabricLive.48: Filthy Dukes
This one holds a very special place in my heart. Though I’ve never seen Filthy Dukes, nor am I particularly familiar with their other work, this mix sounds more like my student days than any other. I was at University from 2007 to 2010, a time when indie and electro were indistinguishable. Bands were playing DJ sets, and every massive indie release had a Soulwax remix attached. Even though everyone was talking about dubstep, most club nights actually sounded like this. We begin at the indie end of the spectrum, lots of guitars, and verse-chorus-verse structures, but with the constant kick drum of a house night. Gradually, we slip into glittery disco territory. The songs get more and more emotional. Each and every track feels crucial to the picture as a whole, none of them outstaying their welcome or cut short prematurely. By half an hour in, The Dukes have taken us from a double vodka student night to a full-on warehouse rave, and eventually back round to the beginning again. It’s infectious, cheeky, and above all great fun. It feels like coming up, and I’m envious of the kids that had their first pilly experiences with these guys in charge of the soundtrack. I’ll bet it was magical. The highlight? Proxy’s remix of Tiga, hands down.
22: FabricLive.65: DJ Hazard
30 seconds of lilting pads and echoey female vocals, and then madcap aggression for the next 70 minutes. The whole thing runs above 180bpm, and contains a whopping 50 tracks. And more impressive than the sheer amount of tracks, is that it manages to be really well put together. Hazard’s success lies in the fact that he’s giving you exactly what you’d expect whilst also continually surprising you. Rather than a series of cut-up amens, Hazard uses the breakneck pace as a framework to play around with rhythm. Most of these tracks are heavily swung in one way or another, balancing the danceable with the unexpected. One of the best moments happens early on, with Tyke’s ‘Buzzards‘. Rather than the standard bass drop, this track is built around a brutal mid-range screech. It’s genuinely alarming and really uncomfortable, which is exactly what you want. Hazard also has a good sense off when to ease off. It never becomes easy listening, but there are peaks and troughs as well as a tremendous amount of variation, which means that the real monster tracks retain their power. Many of Hazards’ own productions (‘Cherry Bomb‘, ‘Meen Time‘) are amongst the most rhythmically weird on the disc, and it’s clear that such a long-standing monthly residency at Fabric has afforded him the chance to really experiment and push the envelope, whilst also carving out a unique signature sound.
21: FabricLive.74: Jack Beats
When Jack Beats released their first few singles, I became an instant fan. It was like a kick up the arse to other producers, both hilarious and meticulously constructed. The single ‘Beatbox‘ that kicks off the mix is surprisingly average but the same can’t be said of their other tracks. They have an incredibly unique and original style to their productions, which we get our first proper glimpse of on track 6, the cheeky ‘Landline‘. Everything preceding this was epic, but fairly standard Ibiza house music. But after ‘Landline‘, there’s a much stronger emphasis on the beloved womp. It’s so well ordered that even the irritating ‘Booty Bounce‘ sounds great. By the middle it’s absolutely full to the rafters of buildups and breakdowns, and yet it doesn’t feel over the top because of the patience of the opening stretch. The best moment for me is Pev’s ‘Just A Beat‘, a track so indebted to Jack Beats’ style that the producer actually beats them at their own game. It sets the tone perfectly for the final stretch, in which they overlay the emotion of the first third, with the wompy beats of the middle stretch, to create something funky and fun which also tugs the hell out of your heart strings. It’s cheesy at times, but simultaneously quite genuine, and definitely gets your pulse racing. These lads had been playing at Fabric for over a decade before coming together, so they know how it works like the back of their hands, and it shows.
20: FabricLive.17: Aim
Sounding more like an edition of Late Nite Tales, Aim’s edition kicks off with one of the most gorgeous instrumental hip-hop cuts I’ve ever heard, rolling into Boards of Canada. Then an acoustic folk ballad in the style of Nick Drake. This could not be further from the Fabric template, but frankly, with some of the states I’ve been in at 4am in that club, I’d be raving about it for months if I heard a DJ play a set like this. The bulk consists of deep, soulful hip-hop. Each selection is beautiful and catchy, and they’re blended sensitively. Scott Lark’s ‘Insight‘ smacks of The Pharcyde’s ‘Drop‘ if it had been delivered with a blocked nose. There’s sample-spotting with Tom Scott’s ‘Today‘, before tripping back to the hip-hop tip with A Tribe Called Quest. There’s also diversions to sunny Peruvian soul, rumba, and breakneck funk. At times the mix is incredibly poignant (‘Love Comes And Goes‘), and it always feels friendly, which really sets it apart. Even if it’s not a show-stopper, it truly is one of a kind, and despite having no turntable trickery it manages to be one of the best hip-hop sets in the series on selection alone, whilst also taking you to some places you never thought you’d hear on a FabricLive.
19: FabricLive.68: Calibre
When it comes to soulful, emotional, beautiful drum ‘n’ bass, you’d be hard pressed to find a more respected name than Calibre. His productions feature in the majority of dnb mixes in the series, so he was definitely due a turn of his own by 2013. The majority of the mix, as with any Calibre set, is made up of his own productions. Pianos swirl hypnotically, and tunes gradually bleed into one another. The familiar ‘Yellow Shoes‘ by Marky & S.P.Y is stripped of its drama, and turned into a beautiful ballad. The reason this mix is so important is to do with how prolific Calibre is. He’s released many albums, and many, many EPs, but dnb is designed to be listened to as a mix. To hear the man himself picking his personal highlights, as well as a few key cuts by other artists, is a real treat. The mix doesn’t surprise; it satisfies, and it’s deeply contemplative. There’s great sadness in these songs, and it makes for a really cathartic listen. The latter half, including 2 contributions from dBridge, pushes the mix to some of its deepest and darkest points, more focussed on a reese bass than tinkling keys. ‘Justice Over Law‘ by Genotype brings the mix right up to date, and provides the most experimental point, but Calibre isn’t really about experimentation. He has a signature sound, and it works. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
18: FabricLive.27: DJ Format
This mix is a crate diggers paradise. After opening with 2 slices of instrumental funk-breaks, the impeccable rhythmic flow of Lyrics Born cuts in, and the subsequent track matches this superb benchmark. The interplay between rhymes and breakbeats is stunning, the rapping incredibly musical. Not that there’s much of it, as Format tends to favour instrumental breakbeat collages from the likes of Coldcut, Cut Chemist and Aspects. For the first 20 minutes that is. After setting up this framework, Format uses most of the rest of the disc as a history lesson in that most sacred of genres, rare groove. The fact that this is the only mix in the series to focus on this style is such a shame. Without rare groove there would be no hip-hop, and it’s crucial to the story of the DJ. With selections going back as far as the late 60s, Format has a sensitive manner of mixing, never cutting a track abruptly, or attempting any tricks that distract from the quality of these choices, and from ‘Hot Rod Poppa‘ onwards, each song introduces itself so boldly that you feel guilty for not knowing them already. One complaint that could be levelled at this CD is that Format sets up one mix, and then delivers a completely different one, and it would have been nice to hear some older cuts in the opening stretch, with some more hip-hop later on. But there are very few weak moments, and the more out there choices such as Ananda Shankar’s ‘Dancing Drums‘ are sublime. It’s actually really bloody tough to mix music with live drumming, especially funk as loose and free as this, but here it sounds as easily done as anything else. Screaming Hammond organs, belting divas, and crashing drum fills, some of the best soul music you’ve never heard. Blast it loud, this one counts.
17: FabricLive.01: James Lavelle
The first FabricLive mix CD from the man from UNKLE makes for an incredible listen. Ambitious and eclectic from the off, it kicked the series off perfectly, and wasn’t beaten by another breaks mix for years. Kicking off with a live funk jam, a psychedelic detour, and the all-time classic ‘Organ Donor‘, Lavelle covers more ground in 10 minutes than the next 5 CDs do in their entirity. What’s most staggering about this CD though, is the mood. This was released in 2001, and though the breaks that make up the bulk of the mix have fallen out of fashion, the tone throughout is 100% consistent with the feel of Fabric through the ages. I would argue that no track in the entire series nails the mood quite like the 7 minute ‘Hey Jack (UNKLE Metamorphosis Mix)‘. The production stands up much, much better than the other mixes from the same time period, and it’s consistently dramatic without being overblown. It’s evocative of the old train arches that make up the building. Whilst there are stretches where the mix just rolls, there’s always enough atmospheric stuff going on in the background to prevent it from getting boring. The mix goes beyond merely stitching tracks together due to the awesome programming. Green Velvet’s ‘La La Land‘ gives a huge payoff to the breaks that preceded it. Though the beats are repetitive, it never becomes background music, always pulling you in with its hypnotic tendrils. It’s deep and murky, but it absolutely soars. It’s cool and dark, but warm and inviting. When the mix finally tumbles and gives way to Radiohead’s ‘Everything In Its Right Place‘, take a deep breath. You’ve just witnessed something very special indeed.
16: FabricLive.40: Noisia
Noisia’s entry into the series couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. Their best singles are on this disc, and whilst in 2017 this techstep thing is feeling very tired, in 2008 it was exciting, fresh and new. The music is definitely unpleasant, but there’s something almost catchy about the tunes used here, and though we’re on track 4 by the third minute, it seems completely necessary. The mixing is meticulous; check the way the boys introduce ‘Diplodocus‘. A computer couldn’t get it sounding that tight. There’s also no chance to get bored, the way they play around with different rhythms keeps you constantly guessing. 15 minutes in, we’ve already had frenetic 16th notes, lazy swing, wonky halftime, and cut up amens. The biggest surprise of all comes half way through, when the tempo drops right down to 130bpm, for 4 meticulously crafted scorchers. Noisia have long been heralded as the best in their craft when it comes to production, but this mix proves that they’re also keen selectors, and are equally capable of turning mixing into an art. When they pick the tempo back up with ‘Stigma‘, it’s back to full-pelt fury. The track hasn’t lost an ounce of its original power, and still remains one of dnb’s most innovative moments. Though the latter tracks on the mix do tread very similar ground to the first half hour, it still remains refreshing to hear aggressive drum ‘n’ bass with such a clear funk influence. Today, this is a scene which has been stretched in every single direction, and frankly, I’m fed up of it. But on FabricLive.40, the music is exciting, innovative, and actually a whole lot of fun to listen to. This mix may well have been techstep’s, and Noisia’s, finest hour.
15: FabricLive.54: David Rodigan
Let’s start by making it clear, this CD is not representative of seeing David Rodigan live. He’s one of the only DJs I’m happy to see pull up a record. But that wouldn’t make much sense on a mix CD. What this is, is a selection of some of Ram Jam Roddie’s favourite cuts from the past 40 years. You’ll know some of them, but the ones you don’t know will quickly become favourites. The quality simply doesn’t dip. From deep dub, to glorious lovers rock, to dirty dancehall, each and every flavour of Jamaican music is represented here. The programming is similarly fantastic, as records released 30 years apart sound completely natural next to one another. And unlike other reggae compilations out there, it’s neither focussed on a single studio, nor too full of obvious cheesy hits. What I’m essentially saying, is that this may be the best single disc reggae compilation there is. And is that surprising when you see who’s at the helm?
14: FabricLive.19: The Freestylers
If you think dance music should be exciting, fast, loud and fun, then you’ll struggle to do better than FabricLive.19. A full 2 and a half minutes of buildup rolls by before the mammoth ‘Boomblast (Deekline & Wizard Remix)‘ hits in full force. The bassline is monstrous even by today’s standards, and it’s so thrilling that the opener feels like it’s 2 minutes long rather than 7. Most other breaks mixes in the series get samey at some point, but The Freestylers are constantly introducing new sounds and influences, whether it’s innovative synth work, an enormous range of vocals, or even a didgeridoo. They also prevent the mix from sounding too robotic with percussion and drum fills that sound live, plus the occasional guitar. There’s a ton going on at any one point, with dub sirens left, right and centre, but it all hangs together, and never sounds too messy. The scratching is also exemplary, but most impressive is that cheesy or clichéd elements somehow breathe new life. The sleng teng riddim is probably the most overused bassline of all time, but on ‘Put Up Your Hands‘, it becomes exciting again. Similarly, ‘Dooms Night‘ is a track that everyone living through this era should really have been fed up with by this point, but it’s mixed in so well that it becomes a real high point. In fact, the mixing throughout is flawless. Although breaks fell out a fashion a decade ago, the production is thick enough that it stands up today so much better than other mixes from the same era. And although it may sound hella cheesy, all the greatest rave music does after a while. So relish it.
13: FabricLive.84: Dub Phizix
One of the most intriguing characters in drum ‘n’ bass (if you can call it that) steps up to deliver a consistently exciting, interesting, and innovative mix. The first few tracks are undeniably rooted in dnb, but from track 4 onwards it’s anyone’s guess, as the rhythmic obscurity that is his trademark comes to the fore. The way Owens will break down to a gentle head nod and back up to tearout jungle is fascinating, and keeps you on your toes at all times. The performances from various Manchester MCs are fantastic, especially the Levelz collaborations, and of the 40 tracks crammed into this mix the majority remain memorable. Some cuts are so experimental they’d be impossible to dance to (‘Dun Dem‘, ‘Fairlady‘ & ‘Restless Leg Syndrome‘), but they certainly hold your interest, and the majority of the mix has enormous groove. Above all, you never know where you’re going to be thrown next. One such surprise is the inclusion of his biggest tune to date ‘Marka‘ but in a completely reworked form. It’s the ability to throw it down as a DJ which explains Dub Phizix’s meteoric rise over the past few years with only a handful of breakout singles to his name. Manchester has always been far ahead of the curve when it comes to dance music, and it’s heartwarming to hear the mix used as an ode to his city. 90% of the vocals in the mix come with a thick Manc accent, and the set closes with a poem explaining how and why the city came to be so forward-thinking musically. And listening to this, you do feel like you’re hearing a totally new development in dance music. Long may it last.
12: FabricLive.71: DJ EZ
With EZ, it’s not so much about the records he plays, but how he plays them. His precision chopping is second to none, and has gifted him a sustained career throughout the years when UKG fell out of fashion. It’s amazing that after 70 editions there’s still room to come through with a style that is completely original, but that’s exactly what EZ achieves. By cutting swiftly between two records with a bit of reverb, he plays rhythms off against one another to make a completely new track on the fly, as well as using cue buttons like a drum machine. When he layers tracks, the effect is always awesome. As for the music, it’s gloriously cheesy, with familiar vocals from Sia, Sampha, and a whole host of divas. But it’s also a history lesson, with tracks from throughout garage history sitting comfortably next to one another, and every possible permutation of the genre represented, including some choice grime cuts. There are melodies for the girls, basslines for the boys, and it’s totally over the top without ever getting too messy. EZ also has the sense to ease off into a groove after each barrage. He’s still chopping and changing every 2 minutes, but with more subdued bass-driven numbers, giving the mix space to breathe. This is especially true at the very end, when EZ masterfully closes on two beautiful, lilting cuts from MJ Cole. Garage has, for most of its history, been less than cool, as exemplified perfectly by Kurupt FM. But when there’s this much talent on display, it becomes impossible not to enjoy it. For garage fans, it’s a must. And even if you’ve never been a fan, this mix might change your mind.
11: FabricLive.07: John Peel
No matter where your tastes lie, John Peel is the most important DJ who ever lived. Since the birth of Radio 1 Peel was at the head of every new movement in music, from punk to reggae, techno to grindcore, he played it all before anyone else. The fact that this CD exists at all is something of a miracle as John passed only 2 years later, and it warrants a top spot on this list by reputation alone. But this isn’t simply a collection of Peel’s favourites. It’s Peel’s favourites through a Fabric lens. It’s important to picture all of these mixes with an image of the club in your mind, and considering how well they would work in such a setting. And this is a screaming success. Though there’s no mixing per se, the ordering of the tracks is brilliant. On first listen, it might sound like a particularly eclectic iPod on shuffle, but it goes deeper than that. Whenever Peel goes too far in one direction (the ridiculous hillbilly cover of ‘Lust For Life‘) he follows it up perfectly with its opposite (the wonderful funk jam ‘Let’s Get Small‘), and the majority of the choices are focussed cleanly on being big room dance numbers. When Mark E. Smith’s caterwauling takes us about as far from the FabricLive template as we could possibly be, Peel follows it up with some deep, dank techno, perfect for that legendary sound system. And though there are plenty of nonsensical choices, the overall quality of the music is just so much higher than most editions of the series. There are a handful of familiar choices (‘Love Will Tear Us Apart‘, ‘Teenage Kicks‘), but you have to remember that these tunes wouldn’t have become the anthems they are without Peel. Also, kudos to the man for ‘Identify The Beat‘. The most hardcore moment in the entire series is supplied by a Radio 1 DJ in his 60s. It would be impossible to sum up such a lengthy and important career in 74 minutes, but this gives us a wonderful glimpse. RIP John, and thank you.
10: FabricLive.50: dBridge & Instra:mental present Autonomic
To tag this work as drum ‘n’ bass would be pretty misleading, as the music of dBridge & Instra:mental has much more in common with ambient techno pioneers like Global Communication than anything you’d expect to hear at a Ram showcase. The whole mix is gentle, sparse, textural and beautiful. It’s as if they’ve taken a liquid funk template and removed most of the drum hits. There are no build-ups, no screaming drops; it’s the antithesis of big room drum ‘n’ bass. And yet, it never gets boring. Perhaps this is due to the extensive tracklist. Composed of over 30 tracks from a huge range of familiar names from other scenes, such as Scuba, Skream & Pearson Sound, the sheer number of contributions keeps the mix moving forward, with most tracks hovering around the 2 minute mark. The individual tracks are gorgeous, but the way they’re layered over one another brings the emotion to dizzy new heights. The mixing is stunning, as the keys of two tracks pull at one another yearning to be resolved. Though the rhythm and sounds are constantly shifting, the mood is consistent. As dark as the club itself but incredibly soulful. So although the mix doesn’t provide any moments to get sweaty too, it’s utterly unique and original. Moving at a snail’s pace without getting dull, you’ll fall in love with it.
9: FabricLive.36: James Murphy & Pat Mahoney
This mix doesn’t sound like what you might expect from the 2 leaders of LCD Soundsystem, and it’s all the better for it. Of the small number of disco sets in the series, this one shines through as the winner, with a whole series of undiscovered gems that make up for their inherent cheese factor by being so damn deep, danceable, and authentic. Disco was, of course, one of the first movements in which the DJ was king. Murphy & Mahoney recognise this, and pay homage to it wonderfully by recreating not just the sound, but that feeling of camp exuberance. It’s an all vinyl set, and it needs to be; if there was no crackle it wouldn’t be the same. And the mixing couldn’t be better. You can tell that it’s done on authentic equipment, with imperfect beatmatching, but the transitions are absolutely spot on. At times it sounds more like a band jamming than a collection of records; a band with a world class bassist. They’re also not afraid to deviate from the template, note the drum freak out on ‘Tablakone‘. After the inclusion of the sole LCD Soundsystem track on the disc, they drop the tempo right back down to where we started for an electronic groove-out. Retro, warm, and thoroughly friendly, just like the rest of the disc, but even more so. The fact that DJing is not their primary asset actually works in their favour, as there are no tricks, they simply let their favourite music do the talking. LCD have always been the greatest hipster band, and there’s nothing more hipster than rare disco records. Turns out they might just be the greatest hipster DJs as well.
8: FabricLive.52: Zero T
Yet another edition which proves how well Fabric picks its dnb contributions. Zero T’s disc kicks off with some hard edged drum ‘n’ bass melded perfectly with aggressive US MCs. The instrumental tracks aren’t dissimilar to the most subdued moments on the Noisia CD; aggressive, yet intricately fun. But there’s a different kind of anger at play here, perhaps best exemplified on the incredible Lynx & Kemo cut ‘You Are Being Lied To‘. With the exception of the Saul Williams monologue on Freq Nasty’s contribution, it’s the first overtly political moment in the series, and it feels so overdue. The problems described by Kemo haven’t diminished in the past 7 years and it remains incredibly effective. It may in fact be my favourite moment of the entire series, and it carries such weight that the instrumental tracks which follow seem to back up the message. Gradually though, the music begins to get more light and floaty. Despite the tracks generally sounding very, very similar there’s enough variation to keep you highly engaged. But what really shines through is the emotional quality of the mix. It’s mournful, yearning, brittle, and totally genuine. It all comes together as a style which is more angry than liquid and less full on than neurofunk, and the mixing between tracks is absolutely flawless. And after all that, Zero T eases off on the tempo into dubstep so gentle it could be called downtempo. From that point on, we’re treated to a full blown 360 of 140bpm bass music. Considering what came before, it’s bizarre to hear such a range crammed into such a short space of time, but it rescues the mix from becoming too depressing. As a final encore, T returns to the hip-hop/jungle crossover we began with for one last tune. It rounds off one of the best mixes in the series perfectly. Highly, highly recommended.
7: FabricLive.12: Bugz In The Attic
Sitting somewhere between soul, jazz, garage, hip-hop and a myriad of other genres, the early 2000s broken beat scene was a fantastically rich and fertile landscape, which sadly doesn’t get much mention these days. This CD is a record of those times, and its vital and engaging, even to a complete newcomer. The music is clever and complex, whilst simultaneously being fun and danceable. The music that’s considered cool today is generally dark and uninviting. This stuff oozes cool, whilst being totally warm and welcoming. It’s an incredible triumph. You can hear that the producers featured probably went to some pretty prestigious music schools, but nothing here is impenetrable. This is in no small part due to the poppy vocal lines throughout. The incredibly influential proto-dubstep womp of Artwork’s ‘Red‘ is proof enough that this music was way ahead of its time, and the pacey vocals from Lyric L on the subsequent track ‘Loose Lips‘ are similarly fantastic. Although there are common threads running through the mix, each selection is catchy and unique in its own way, and they’re paired together in the mix beautifully. Drum patterns play off against one another to create an almighty groove that sounds like it’s being played by an octopus. The focus shifts from bass, to keys, to vocals and back again. Though there are only 14 tracks, the mix is progressing forward constantly, a testament to the quality of the selections. The only truly weak number is the Daft Punk remix, which is dull and irritating, and was probably only included to pull in potential window shoppers. Overall though, it’s a thoroughly brilliant exploration of a genre that many people today are completely unfamiliar with, and it’s well worth your time.
6: FabricLive.56: Pearson Sound/Ramadanman
Kicking off with nothing more than a sawtooth sub and an 808 cowbell, David Kennedy’s mix is one of the most well-crafted and consistently fascinating editions of the series. Though we begin with a simple 4/4 beat it’s only a minute before it’s gone, and Pearson Sound’s syncopated, juke-leaning preferences come to the fore. There’s a limited number of elements that make up the majority of the tracks here; the aforementioned cowbell, light kicks, plenty of toms and skittering hats. So much is done with so little. When something leftfield is introduced (the sharp vocals that make up ‘Vanghoma‘), it’s done so smoothly and carefully that it doesn’t disrupt a thing. When people talk about mixing in layers, this really is the epitome of the practice, as it’s near impossible to know when one track ends or begins, and within 3 minutes the rhythmic nature and mood of the mix will always be somewhere new without you even noticing it happened. The other selling point is that you can really hear Kennedy mixing. Sometimes tracks aren’t exactly beat-matched, but they’re somehow not out of time either, and it only serves to give the set more bounce. And the use of filters and reverb in Kennedy’s own productions is formidable (case in point ‘Inna Daze‘ in which he manages to make a klaxon sound beautiful). The beats are fast and frantic, yet spacious and light. And although the style is very samey, Kennedy isn’t afraid to throw it all out in favour of something else, such as the live-sounding percussion jam from Die Barbie Musik Kollektiv, before slamming back into a final stretch at 140bpm and ending on a gorgeous ambient cut. The tempo started at some point below 126bpm, and we didn’t even notice it gradually fade up, so is Kennedy’s talent. This mix works as an exploration of the curator’s work, a snapshot of the scene in 2011, a piece of emotional art, and a hugely danceable mix, all at the same time. And the mixing goes beyond smooth, as Kennedy crafts the magical third record between tracks over and over. Outstanding.
5: FabricLive.76: Calyx & Teebee
After decades in the game individually, Calyx & Teebee came together to make arena sized drum ‘n’ bass that’s so well crafted that even the most relentlessly underground fan would have to concede to its brilliance. And this mix is a testament to that ethos. No mix in the series paints a better picture of the 360 degree nature of dnb today. After kicking off with three in your face smackers the boys immediately start to pull back. The drops in intensity, and the space afforded to breakdowns make their own already massive productions sound absolutely enormous. The best early example of this comes following a half-stepper from Om Unit, which leads into ‘Pure Gold‘, C&T’s biggest single to date. It takes the tone right down to dark, brooding hip-hop, and then back to hype as fuck dnb. After lashings of liquid funk and halftime, the incredibly aggressive ‘Demolisher‘ from Teddy Killerz feels more than justified. It’s almost as if each small section is followed up by something in the opposite direction, bouncing around all corners of the genre like a game of ping pong. The set is intricately programmed to show the boys as truly talented DJs, but their own productions all shine as highlights. Their remix of Syron is built around a trance-influenced pop vocal line, but with such a meticulously original rhythm on the drop, it truly makes you gasp. ‘Strung Out VIP‘ produces the same feeling. What really sets this mix apart is how much greater it is than the sum of its parts. Many of these tunes simply wouldn’t blow me away if heard on their own; they’d feel too cheesy. Strung together in this order, they weave a tapestry that’s deeply emotional and full of meaning. The closing lyric states ‘It’s time to elevate this sound‘. Mission accomplished.
4: FabricLive.26: The Herbaliser
Opening with a bang, The Herbaliser’s entry is a solid-gold mix of party starting fury. The range of styles and sounds crammed into this hip-hop/funk framework is so impressive; the ancient blues sample on ‘Southern Lady‘ feels totally unique, and that’s just track 2. It’s full of recognisable references and twists on classics. The acapella laid over RJD2’s ‘Ghostwriter‘ adds to a track that was already perfect, as does ‘It Takes A Seven Nation Army To Hold Us Back‘. The mixing is flawless, with each track given just long enough to take full effect, before swiftly cutting or layering to the next one with clever key-matching, and the occasional b-boy break. Though the tracks from the USA give a nice sense of attitude, it’s the UK tracks that really shine, with eloquent and offensive contributions from Yungun, Verb T, Mystro & more. This is a showcase of the best and ballsiest rap music you’ve never heard. The fact that after such a cocky onslaught, an old James Brown track supplies just as much attitude is testament to the selectors’ abilities, and it bridges into a funk and breakbeat section that saves the mix from becoming one long brag. The mix also serves as a bit of a history lesson, with hip-hop from the early 90s, and funk from the late 70s, sitting side by side with post-2000 material, all creeping up in tempo throughout. It saddens me to think that this could have been the soundtrack to a night in Fabric before I was 18, as sets like this have fallen out of favour since I hit adulthood, even though they’re inherently timeless. It’s music for stoners, rather than phet and ketheads. And that’s my scene. It should be yours too.
3: FabricLive.32: Tayo
Arriving at the beginning of the year that gave us Caspa & Rusko’s FabricLive.37, the album that transformed dubstep into a dirty word, Tayo’s contribution to the series is your best introduction to the sound before it happened. Of course, this is a long way from being a simple dubstep mix, as we’re taken through the whole scope of UK bass music. The mix begins in a deep dub fashion, but it’s only a couple of minutes before Tayo has subtly led us through to full on breaks. To list all the sub-genres on this disc is beyond me, but there are a few common themes. Dubby influences, a carnival feel, and a hell of a lot of bass. But it’s the way in which the tracks are stitched together that makes this a series best. Tayo’s knack for picking rhythms that play off one another is second to none. The groove is insistent, and we’re always building towards something more exciting. He’s also picked the very best from the artists featured. Buraka Som Sistema and Baobinga provided some of the most irritating moments of the entire series, and yet their inclusions here are brilliant. On the other end of the spectrum, Tipper makes some of the most experimental, unique club music out there, but ‘Open The Jowls‘ somehow fits into this mix without seeming at all out of place. As we head into the final third, contributions from Benga and Skream pop up well before they were household names, and the mix closes sensitively with the ultimate deep dubstep anthem, ‘Anti War Dub‘. Tayo’s own productions are as brilliant as any other on the disc, but they’re completely overshadowed by his DJing prowess. There’s no scratching, no quick cuts, no technical showmanship, just great tunes mixed smoothly and superbly. 10 years old and still thoroughly relevant. DJs take note; this is how it’s done.
2: FabricLive.63: Digital Soundboy Soundsystem
A mix of 3 parts, curated by 3 DJs, the Digital Soundboy Soundsystem mix is a resounding triumph. Opening with a beautiful Nina Simone cut, B.Traits launches the mix into some of the best tribal bass music around. Even though the mix moves forward quickly, with few tracks lasting longer than 2 minutes, it all sounds perfectly methodical. M.A.N.D.Y. & Booka Shade’s classic ‘Body Language‘ sounds exquisite with Justin Martin & Ardalan’s ‘LEZGO‘ over the top, and it’s often difficult to know whether you’re listening to 2 tracks or 3. Because each DJ is only given a third of the mix, it means they’ve had to be that much more selective, and they each cram more into 25 minutes than most would in an hour. For this first section, it’s done so smoothly that you don’t even notice how fast she’s moving between tracks. After 20 minutes that felt more like 10, we’re already heading into Breakage’s section. It’s big room dubstep, but it’s certainly not brostep. Switching from halftime, to breaks, to 4/4 and back again, it’s the most engaging 140bpm stretch in the whole series. Each track adds something wholly unique, and the overall tapestry is staggeringly impressive. In such a context, Redlight’s brilliant ‘Source 16‘ sounds nowhere near as silly as it normally does. In fact, this whole section somehow manages to come across as serious and moody, whilst also being an incredibly fun party mix. A monologue from David Rodigan moves us into Shy FX’s section opening with some fantastic dub reggae. Despite being the most fun and light-hearted section, it’s undeniable that Shy’s is the least successful. It begins fantastically, but where other jungle DJs in the series have been afforded 74 minutes, Shy only has 25, and you can feel that pressure. But this mix has been perfect so far, and this only just misses the mark. The guest spots from Roots Manuva and Dizzee Rascal are fantastic, and ‘Marka‘ sounds as fresh as it ever did. What’s most commendable though, is that despite Digital Soundboy’s incredible roster of releases, there’s so much quality music from other labels on here. I was expecting big things from this edition, and it totally blew them out of the water. And as that familiar UK Apache vocal fades out the mix, you’re left wishing it wasn’t the end.
1: FabricLive.22: Scratch Perverts
One of the most comprehensively awesome mix CDs ever released, FabricLive.22 begins with such swagger and bravado that each and every time I chuck it on it feels like the first time. Everything about it still oozes cool. Beginning with a tour round the best of UK and US hip-hop, even though these are some of the best DJs in the game, it’s mixed to shine the light on the MCs. That said, there’s still turntable trickery that’s difficult to get your head around. The track selection during this opening stretch cuts a balance between the fun, the brash, and the emotive. Occasionally, the Pervs, will cut the mix on an odd bar line. Whether these are live mistakes or intentional, it takes nothing away from the flow. In fact it adds to it. The first section is wrapped up with the most enjoyable contribution Kanye West has ever laid down before ‘dropping’ the tempo for some quickfire wordplay from Foreign Beggars. Tunes from either side of the pond sit so comfortably next to one another. Folks that claim that the UK rap scene only truly flowered with the birth of grime should take note. For the next few tunes there’s no beatmatching, with a different tempo on every tune, and it still sounds totally professional. None more so than the transition from Dead Prez’s ‘Hip Hop; there’s no way to know which record is making which sounds as we’re brought into another Scratch Perverts original, just as tight and confident as the opener. We’re into the electro-breaks section, and every step is perfect. The scratching is pure showmanship, and they limit it so that you’re always left wanting more. The inclusion of Radiohead’s ‘National Anthem‘ somehow makes sense after all this, and even more bizarrely, segues perfectly into Pendulum. The drum ‘n’ bass closing section is absolutely electrifying, and is probably the inspiration for every DJ I know ending their set with 10 minutes of jungle. This is the first FabricLive mix CD I ever heard, and remains the absolute best.