After getting lost in translation, Chen Mian Kuang now finds himself deep underground, possessed by the spirit of House.
77A Charterhouse St, City of London EC1M 3HN, United Kingdom. Since 1999, it has been home to fabric, an international clubbing mecca known for its eclectic music policy. Their Friday nights are called FabricLive, showcasing a potpourri of electronica genres including breaks, hip-hop, dubstep, drum and bass. Saturday nights are entitled fabric, dedicated to house and techno.
Starting off at the same time as superclub Home which boasted a residency by megastar DJ Paul Oakenfold, fabric’s emphasis on underground quality acts has helped it rise slowly and steadily to become one of the top dance venues in the UK, whereas its rival has shut its doors two or three years after its inception.
Fabric also produces mix CDs every month. One month it’s fabric, the next is FabricLive, and so on. Each CD is mixed by a different artist. The CD series has been ongoing for 9 years already. Given the fickle trends of the clubbing industry, fabric’s longevity is quite an achievement. The CDs have covered every evolving facet of dance music over that time, except for trance and progressive house which some quarters regard as the lowest common denominator of such music (the former due to its widespread appeal, and the latter a victim of changing tastes).
I’ve picked the best of each genre to review.
Since there are so many, there will be two parts to this post.
PLUMP DJs — “FABRICLIVE 08”
One of the bestest breaks album that I’ve ever heard. Choc full of phat b-boy beats, mutated from Eighties breakdance hip hop and fermented with some Chemical Brothers.
The party starts with Hexidecimal’s mix of Sound Alliance’s “From Home”, and suddenly your body’s involuntary reflexes take over. There’s no time to talk, your brain has been disengaged, and you can’t help but move dat bootay. The best tracks belong to the Plumps – “Contact 00” and “Punch Drunk” serve out beats that bounce like hyperactive beach balls. The proceedings climax with Donna Summer’s seminal disco tune “I Feel Love”, now accompanied by spiraling acid 303 lines.
And then, it finishes all too soon.
TYLER STADIUS — fabric 06
Tech-house was big in the early Noughties, and this mix is a good representative of that genre.
You have DJ Buck’s “Legend of the High Plains Drifter” — lonely menacing kick drum, coupled later with druggy bass lines, inviting you to ghost dance high on peyote in Mojave desert. That track segues into the trippy “Acid Soul” by Jay Tripwire. In comes bongos, then spoken vocals float in and out, like disembodied spirits.
Somewhere in the middle, the irresistible stomping drums of Cutlab’s “Loud Kissin” cut in and causes structural damage to your house. Hopefully it is still standing when the mix winds down with the deep dub reggae calmness of Rhythm & Sound’s “King In My Empire”.
ELLEN ALLIEN — fabric 34
Ellen Allien is a DJ, music artist, fashion designer and owner of Bpitch, one of the best known underground dance record labels in Berlin. Famous for her eclectic take on techno, her mix for fabric is the most coherent and the best in her career so far.
The soundscape morphs organically from electronically simulated jungle noises of Schubert’s “S1” to subtle trance in Artificial Latvamaki’s “It Is Not Now Either” before giving way to atonal monasterial percussion in Roman Flugel’s “mutter”. We also have a piece of Thom Yorke’s foray into electronica, the moody “Harrowdown Hill”, whereby his distinctive singing is punctuated by tough electro beats.
The CD ends on a high note with Apparat’s “Arcadia”, containing yearning vocals reminiscent of the said Mr Yorke against a backdrop of swirling strings and light acoustic guitar.
This mix is a perfect example of how techno can go beyond monotonous four by four mechanical noise to incorporate shifting moods and haunting vocals.
The CD covers are actually very interesting pieces of modern art. Here are some more for you to look at:
Please do not be alarmed, remain calm. Do not attempt to leave the dancefloor. The DJ booth is conducting a troubleshoot test of the entire system. Somehow, while the party was in progress, an unidentified frequency has been existing in the system for some time. And while many of you have been made too brainwashed to comprehend, this frequency is, and has become a threat to our society as we know it.
This frequency has been used by a secret society in conjunction with Lucifer to lure and prey on innocent partygoers. With hypnotism, syncroprism, tricknology, lies, scandal, and pornography. While the party is still in progress we will keep you updated on our current status.
We repeat, this is only a test, this is only a test. This station in conjunction with other airwave announcements will conduct this exact test without prejudice, under the jurisprudence of the soul, the mind, the body, the positive, the negitive, the ground, the proton, the neutron, the electron, the ying, the yang, the young, the sun, the moon, the star.
This is only a test.
(“Moonraker” by Foremost Poets)
Mian‘s favourite musician is Lord Bobo. His Supreme Eminenceness is well known for his ability to play a total of 25 instruments, and to compose, perform, and produce albums all by himself. A veritable one-manmonkeyband (some say control freak), his career started its meteoric rise in the mid eighties with the release of his soundtrack to a movie starring him and the babelicious Apollonia Kotero. His songs about smooching, velvet rain and crying birds are considered modern classics. Waitaminit! Is His Supreme Eminenceness the artist formerly known as The Artist Formerly Known As…