Reviewed: Daphni at fabric
When club DJing was still in its infancy, and before the ingenuity of dual turntables, what signposted the Great DJs was their agility and elegance in switching between records, as one ended and one was set up. The significance of the switch as making or breaking a DJ flourished way back when in post-war Yorkshire, and the role of the DJ has been repurposed recurrently since; they are, for instance, no longer just glorified jukeboxes. Only it hasn’t really, the DJ’s responsibilities haven’t radically changed in seventy years; they haven’t really moved away from its humble origins as a third-party hit dispenser, or as the mythologised conduit for elevating or dragging dance tracks into the cultural consciousness.
What’s obviously developed have been the aesthetics of the role; steep technological advances are both cause and effect, and the consequentially straining expectation to entertain ceaselessly, where even the void of a lost second could prove fatal. That’s why the switch is dead, the switch was boring. For decades now we’ve had mixes, remixes and dubs overlapping with one another to fill the same vacuum which imposed the switch in the first place, meeting where they find concord (or sexual congress, if you’re really high) as a transition.
The transition is a challenge altogether different to the switch, with necessities of seamless melody-upkeep, and bonus points for tempo harmony and sonic invention. That’s where Daphni’s set at fabric comes in. It was, as expected, technically accomplished – building and retreating precisely when required, an impeccable ear for pacing – but he, oxymoronically, instills each section of the set with idiosyncratic personality while sustaining its unpredictable fluidity, forever titillating the possibility of a dramatic U-turn or a deep tunnelling underground. The transition is no longer restricted to an impeding complication, but a bridge to creativity.
This was partly down to the set’s almost draconian adherence to structure, understandable given five hours is quite a long time, and that both his released works (including the mix this party was launching) fill only two hours combined. It used recurring melodies and beats as a basecamp, while he decided which 20th century niche to extract from next; the same cartwheeling techno loops act as the spine, but the limbs represent nearly every movement even speciously associated with rhythm.
Dan Snaith explored this pluralism on 2012’s Jiaolong – to date his only official studio album under the Daphni moniker – where he remixed a notoriously rare Afrobeat 7” in ‘Ne Noya’, coalesced techno and disco fluxes around a rallying R&B sample in ‘Yes I Know’, and spearheaded acidic organ on South Asian-spliced psychedelica ‘Jiao’. The Fabric93 mix digs deeper into these sublets: ‘Face To Face’ grooves on a razor sharp bassline ripped from funk’s primetime: ‘Vikram’ dabbles again in South Asian tidbits: and he gently remixes Luther Davis’s disco icon ‘You Can Be A Star’. One of the mid-points ‘3 in 1’ manically condenses the panoply of ideas into ninety seconds.
That isn’t to say Snaith’s lost a taste for home. The marching monolith ‘Hey Drum’, pressing shuffler ‘So It Seems’, and dazzling house banger ‘Tin’ emanate from UK house and garage sensibilities, and the set’s final hour ushered in homages to resident British Isles titans Aphex Twin and (long-term friend) Four Tet through carved remixes and sampling; you haven’t truly heard ‘Come On You Slags’ until you’ve experienced it spluttered to an agonising crawl.
Sometimes Snaith conformed to his releases’ track sequencing, but more often he did not, and why should he? With his dexterity and imagination he could teleport anywhere and the crowd would be right there with him, trusting that the most dissonant vocal could glide onto the smoothest snare. His transitions are portals.
Snaith’s fabric set was a reminder that the transition can be an opportunity rather than an obstacle, that the music can be in service to the DJ rather than vice versa. The disc jockey is dead; long live the polymath.