Label: FabricRelease: Out Now
The term ‘superstar DJ’ sounds a bit anachronistic these days. In an era where the big names in dance-music embark on stadium-arena tours and are likely to have portions of their radio-friendly sets choreographed in advance, the idea that a big name DJ might take the sound of the underground to the masses seems a quaint memory. Long gone are the days when the very biggest talent in dance music, artists such as Sasha or Carlo Cox, were able to draw mainstream audiences and remain true to themselves at the same time. Having said that, if there is one figure amongst today’s artists who is noticeably keeping that old tradition going it’s Maya Jane Coles.
The last few years have seen MJC cement her position as perhaps the UK’s foremost house DJ and producer. From a never-ending tour schedule that takes in the likes of both Berghain and Global Gathering, to laying down Essential Mixes (two of them, no less) for Radio 1 to remix work for The XX, MJC has ascended to become one of the biggest names in house music. What is most remarkable, is that she’s done it all on her own terms; an ethos spelt out in the name of her own label: ‘I/AM/ME’.
It is a philosophy that is not only present within the weave of fabric 75, but is actually verbalised. The mix opens with a sample of Denzel Washington in the movie American Gangster espousing the virtues of ‘honesty and integrity’ over the heavy swing of Trus’me’s ‘Somebody’. It’s an opening gambit that sets the agenda for the ensuing seventy-minutes, both in terms of MJC’s consciously individualistic approach, but also the compilation’s sound. From the Prime Numbers boss’ track onwards, MJC presents a journey through the climes of house and tech-house, steering between unrelenting rhythmic cuts that go straight for the jugular to more melody-orientated cuts. Dixon’s spine-tinglingly expansive remix of Mathew Jonson’s ‘Level 7’ provides an early highlight, lurching into the murkier bass and stabs of Heiko Laux & Alexander Lukat’s ‘Lucho Part 2’ before easing into the wonderful washed-out melody of ‘No One Gets Left Behind’ by DJ Yellow & Flowers And Sea Creatures.
Composed of mostly recently released numbers, plucked from both well-known imprints (Crosstown Rebels, Ovum) and lesser-known labels (Natural Rhythm, Baumhaus), the track selection makes for a mix that is more in line with MJC’s club sets, than the smouldering aesthetics of her recent studio work or the eclecticism of her 2012 ‘DJ Kicks’ compilation. And whilst many of the sounds fall within the parameters of what might be described as ‘tech-house’, as much a pejorative description than a genre these days, MJC’s lively and intuitive approach to mixing ensures that the proceeding are never anything if not interesting and innovative. The acid playfulness of Ripperton’s remix of Baikal’s ‘Why Don’t You’ is juxtaposed with the reverbing techno stabs of Dense & Pika’s picaresque remix of Paul Woolford’s ‘Erotic Discourse’. Later, the gently soulful melody of Shal Ocin’s ‘Forgive Me’ is woven into the unforgiving kicks and swinging bass of Yenk’s Basement; it’s a head scratcher of a transition on first listening, but after repeat play presents itself as one of the mix’s many subtle curveballs that work wonderfully and point towards what sets MJC apart from your average DJ.
It’s only fair to point out that straightforwardness of the mix makes it easy to overlook it charms. On first listen, fabric 75 is deceptively underwhelming; presenting itself as a solid if unspectacular selection of club tracks. It’s not until the third of fourth time round, when you start to pick up on the small details and the subtleties, that you start to realise just how much more this is than you’re bog-standard DJ mix or podcast. From the wonderful attention to detail that permeates MJC’s own exclusive track, the crisp and moody ‘Premonition’, to the washed-out swampy warmth of NT89’s ‘Purple Garden’ that gently gives way to the soothing balearica of Fran Von Vie’s ‘Lonely Nights’, there is an understated level of conceptual intent at work beneath the skin of the mix. It makes for a record that is on the one hand an odyssey through MJC’s current favourite cuts, indicative of what you can imagine her dishing out to the dancefloor come 2am, and also something much more than just a peak time set. In the subtle touches woven deep within the texture of the mix, there is a reflection of someone interested in crafting a sound that reflect their own interests, preoccupations and visions. And whilst fabric 75 is far from the series’ finest hour, or even MJC’s greatest accolade, what it is is the sound of a true artist at work.