Label: FabricRelease: 20/1/2014
The dissection of dubstep’s lifecycle has been done to death. If, however, you have managed to have had your head stuck in the sand for the last couple of years, Pangaea’s FabricLive 73 provides a tangible summary of the current climate. Kevin McAuley has been tasked with an entry on the breaks affiliated Friday night series, although the Hessle Audio man has turned in a mix that would comfortably sit in the ranks of the house and techno led Saturday night catalogue. It’s telling that the trademark rhythms of dubstep only really manifest in earnest halfway through the mix, preceded by what is an excellent sequence of muted techno and scalpel sharp breaks. As such, by the time the spatial choral strings of Mumdance & MAO “Truth” hits, it is a glorious release. There is the drop.
Of course context is king and this particular drop is free from the instant gratification of EDM’s repeat-a-thon wubline pissing contest. Dine on your favourite food frequently enough and you’ll tire of, like a week of three course meals where every element is made from steak. Thankfully, the steps taken to reach this pivotal mid-point are less gluttonous. If first tracks set expectations for the session to come then McAuley’s own Recreational Slumming could not get proceedings off to a better start; its deep organ bassline is anchored by a leathery kick, giving instant propulsion, with the third beat clap providing a knowing wink to dubstep’s half tempo template. From there, the mood moves from the murky and percussive (Shifted “Untitled Side B2”, following the techno norm of imaginative track titles), the off-kilter house tones of veteran Jamal Moss (under his The Sun God alias) and some timely breaks in the cloud that perforate the storm (notably breaksy bounce of Stenny & Andrea’s “SEA (The Time Gate)” and Hodge “Resolve”).
After Psyk “Arcade” then provides a juiced techno feint, your feet are swept away by that drop moment, leading to cessation in the 4/4 metronomic thump. Far from being a reprieve from a pummelling, the appearance of Hessel companion Pearson Sound’s meaty bass/kick hybrid is like repeated body blows to the diaphragm. It’s utterly hedonistic, with the temptation to hit the rewind button to experience it over and over again. Press on, however, and you are rewarded a waltz of audio that dances from pillar to post. Kobosil “Osmium” is the inky black that exists between nebulae, this then peeling away for the triumphant call to arms in Pev & Kowton’s “End Point”, which in turn acts as a perfect rhythmic counterpoint to the clinical beats of Forward Strategy Group’s “Clean Neckline”. These closing strains showcase an effortless capability to switch from jack to bleep to thwack, each facet of which would usually make up the one dimension of your standard jock. Just as you begin to reach the techno mix CD fatigue point, Imaginary Softwoods “Crystal Pond” acts as an unexpected shift upwards in tempo, allowing for a rip roaring conclusion. The pairing of Oscar Mulero and Astronomical Telegram eschew the standard euphoria of dewy synths for closing, the ragged industrial percussion squeezing the very last drops of any adrenaline you have left. After that it is a pause for breath, perhaps a running of the fingers through your hair as you blink stupefied, before you find yourself back at Recreational Slumming for one more tumble. As such, Kevin McAuley has set 2014 on its way in some style, to the point where you wish you could write about every blend – highlighting the moments of smooth sleight of hand or sudden jaunty introductions – to underline the emotional impact of each transition.
However, some political questions have been posed of this mix: How is this a FabricLive mix? What is the purpose of maintaining two distinct series nowadays? What does it say about the current state of dubstep? What is the correct bass friendly house and techno to play? And the answer to these is an emphatic: who cares? The intangible matter of the dubstep big bang has coalesced into a framework without a framework. 2013 was the drawing of lines through terms such as “post-dubstep” and, if Ben UFO’s session last year wasn’t a strong enough strikethrough for you, FabricLive 73 is the chisel tip Sharpie to emphasise this sentiment. Instead of submitting to our stifling microscopic concerns about genres, expectations and fashion, the unsurprising realisation is that there are some people out there who are very good at selecting music. Instead of getting hung up about what belongs where or who is allowed to play what, let us just celebrate these jukeboxes with soul and revel in the sublime tunes they have selected for us.
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