Label: fabricRating: 9/10
Paradox lies at the heart of Ben UFO’s appeal. Whilst the music he plays, in every generic and sonic sense, is way ahead of the curve, his stature as a DJ is something of a throwback. In the age where DJs are expected to be part-time producers, Ben UFO’s very conscious decision not to make music separates him from his contemporaries. Whilst for others success means both club bookings and Beatport chart success, Ben’s decision to focus on the ‘art’ of djing is an open challenge to the compromise inherent within the forced joinery of this previously optional separation. Yet, the decision to focus on djing (as this mix amply highlights) is not a regressive or conservative purist positioning of the art, but a starting point for challenging the conventions and boundaries of what is possible from a DJ mix.
Opening with the brooding long-held synths of Mix Mup’s Before, Ben UFO launches straight into four minutes of sweating machine-funk with Delroy Edward’s incredible Feelings, establishing both the off-kilter and highly rhythmic aesthetic that runs throughout the various derivations of the mix.
The first half of the mix then zips between the broken dubstep melodies from Pev & Kowtown to the hissing techno of Chicago Skyway and the warm, bass-heavy nineties house of Minimal Man’s Consexual. It establishes the carnival-like variety that colours the twenty-eight track odyssey, in which no single sound or genre is allowed to dominate for more than five or six minutes. What becomes startling clear, and indeed is the mix’s strongest attribute, is that whilst some genre-hopping DJs use the space of an entire mix to cross from one sound to another, Ben UFO’s approach is quite the opposite. Constantly hopping between one genre and another, with an intuitive gracefulness he joins up tracks from across the spectrum. It’s a journey that repeatedly folds back on itself, as sounds and genres are re-visited at different points throughout the seventy-minutes.
An undiluted example of this approach is found within its punchy, razor sharp midsection. The arrival of Jam City’s eerie yet captivating Club Thanz marks the start of a six track melee that includes cuts from Matthew Herbert, Pearson Sound and Lowtec. And it’s the latter artist, whose track Looser, offers the pinacle moment. Its steady pads, looped vocal sample stating that “everything is blue in this world” and long-held synths captures a distorted, haunted ambience. On the surface it is impecabbly-mixed club fodder, but below the surface something much more impressive is going on. A tapestry of off-key, unsettling techno and house pastels, meeting through shared sonic attributes and weirdness, it’s a simultaneous celebration of dance-music’s diversity and its coherence. Another one of Ben UFO’s masterful paradoxes.
The last third of the mix turns up the tempo, as the bouncing sax of Shackleton & Kasai Allstar’s Mukuba Special gives way to the drum machines and acid squelches of Kyle Hall, Kero and Richie Hawtin (in his Circuit Breaker guise). Yet, even this divergence into Detroit-shaped techno is fleeting. Juniper’s Jovian Planet re-introduces melody to the fray and an untitled track from Grain offer some welcome UK Funky flavours, before the nose-bleed techno of Blawan and strange digital beauty of Joe’s Studio Power On find the mix nearing its conclusion.
The pseudo-ambience of Grown Folk and Main Attrakionz provide a fitting ending to the mix. The distant grumbling drums and the slightly sharp edge to the dreamy synths carry a undercurrent of perversion into the dying second of the compilation. It highlights how nothing, in fabric 67 is as straight-forward as it first seems. The quick-stepping selection between genres, the insistently off-kilter melodies and percussion competing with one another, the unsettling content and delivery of occasional vocal samples makes for a rich tapestry and convincing narrative.Yet, at the same time there is nothing pretentious about this mix. Whilst it is a very considered outing, the deft control of the rhythm and beats mean that it is also a heads down, groove heavy mix that you can loose your shit to.
Accessible and highly wrought. Unthinking body music but intellectually stimulating. Off the cuff in its sound yet meticulously planned in its execution. The stunning paradoxes within fabriclive 67 make it one of the best we’ve heard yet, and another confirmation of Ben UFO’s top-dawg position in UK dance today.