[20 October 2011]
Considering the ongoing success story that has been Kieran Hebden’s (Four Tet) career thus far, the only surprising thing about him providing the latest instalment in the Fabriclive series is that it has taken 59 issues of the long running series for him to contribute. Bringing together kindred spirits Caribou and Trevor Jackson, as well as many of the most exciting talents in contemporary electronic music such as Rocketnumbernine, Jacques Greene and Pearson Sound, to help launch the album at the compilation series’ spiritual home, London’s very own ‘super club’ Fabric. The compilation itself functions as a trip down memory lane for Hebden, harking back to his formative years and his love for late ‘90s two-step garage and to role that Fabric played in his life, stating, “This mix is not about my DJing. It’s about London and Fabric and nights out and my take on all that. The memories and the influences”. The release of the mix itself is well-timed, as the UK dance scene (and beyond) is now inundated with bass-music, from dubstep to post-dubstep to nu-dubstep to whatever new genre name that has been invented in the last five minutes; with the retrospective appreciation of the Garage scene evident almost everywhere you look. The celebration of a mix from one of the world’s most influential producers, as well as a celebration of the city and of the institution that is Fabric, coupled with performances from an eclectic range of innovative artists all looked on paper to be a night to remember. And it was, for all the wrong reasons.
Fabric itself has become somewhat a victim of its own success, derided by Londoners as a tourist trap and a venue filled with rude-boys who fancy being a “raver” for a night. Located in a former meat-packing plant, it was voted as best club in the world by DJ Magazine in 2007, and came in at number two in the polls in 2008, 2009 and 2010, a notoriety which has lead it to be one of the number one destinations for club tourists. Previous visits to the venue have confirmed the prevalence of visitor’s to the city, with the labyrinthine stairwells echoing with a multitude of languages, however due to the international nature of electronic music, and when one takes into consideration the tens of thousands of English people who quite happily flood the rest of Europe during festival season, it has never really been an issue, as who cares where the people around you come from, as long as you’re all enjoying the same music. This evening however finally brought home to me the destructive nature of Fabric’s international and, more importantly, national appeal, easily summed up in two words: Fresher’s Week.
As each year passes and the memory of my University days fades even more, ascribing notable dates in the academic calendar to events held in the real world has become more difficult. It was only once I had descended into the cavernous interior, down the Escher-like stairs (they truly function like an optical illusion, with two identical staircases at either end of the venue, you can seemingly spend hours walking up the same staircase and enter into a different room each time), that the importance of the date struck me. Coming at the end of first year University students first week at University, an event at Fabric with a line-up filled with some of the most notable cross-over acts of the last few years was bound to have wide appeal. An appeal that was fully realised, as evidenced by the swarming sea of teenagers that filled every corner of the venue, wide-eyed and kitted out for the first big rave of their University careers. It was not the age, nor the exuberance of the crowd which was the issue; it was the sheer quantity of students which left Fabric bursting at the seams for the majority of the night.
The camaraderie that seems to exist between some of electronic music’s most innovative producers, which has lead to numerous collaborations of late – the most notable of which having been released by various combinations of Four Tet, Caribou, Burial and Thom Yorke – and could be witnessed on this evening due to the prevalence in the line-up of artists who feature on the soon to be released Radiohead remix album TKOL: 1234567. Alongside Four Tet himself, Caribou and Jacques Greene who each feature on the remix album, Room 2 played host to fellow contributors Lone, Pearson Sound and the first act of the night that we saw, Objekt.
One of electronic music’s rising stars, the now Berlin-based producer was the second act to line up in Room 2, hosted by Hessle Audio, the record label to which the likes of Ramadanman/Pearson Sound, Will Saul, Pangaea, and James Blake are all signed. His reworking of “Bloom” is a weird but wonderful bass-heavy track which utilises Yorke’s vocals perfectly, and he was not the first artist of the night to feature his Radiohead remix in his set. The one problem, which raised its head time and time again over the course of the night, was the MC that Hessle Audio employed to accompany almost every act to feature in Room 2. Trying to enjoy the music, whether it be played by Objekt, or later Peverelist, Ben UFO, Pearson Sound or Lone, whilst an increasingly annoying MC shouts “Hessle Audio, Hessle Audio, Hessle Hessle Hessle Hessle Audio!!!” interspersed with “Come on Room 2!! Put your hands in the air, this is for you!” is near-on impossible. Almost more surprising than his inclusion in proceedings was the lack of imagination, the sheer bloody-mindedness and the somewhat admirable perseverance to continue along the same tangent for near-on five hours.
Whilst Room 2 suffered from the MC malaise, Room 1 was victim of an even more disconcerting problem. Wrestling into the back of the room, we arrived to see Rocketnumbernine grace the stage amidst much dry ice and the two Page brothers weaving their mix beautiful swooshing analogues and live drums. With Tom on the drums and Ben playing synths, their set floated out across the ever increasing crowd, the gentleness of the music contrasting greatly with the havoc being wreaked by newcomers to the room rugby tackling their way to the front. The stamina required merely to watch the likes of Rocketnumbernine, and later Jacques Greene and Four Tet took away a lot from the performances. Jacques Greene though did manage to demonstrate just why he is creating so much excitement at the moment, with his pop-infused house and dubstep maintaining the dreamy/dirty disparity between Rooms 1 and 2.
By the time that Four Tet graced the decks, the pandemonium in Room 1 had reached a new level, and thankfully, once over, signalled the slow but steady dispersement of enough people that once Caribou appeared, one could actually breathe once more. Staying true to the spirit of his Fabriclive mix, his set was retrospective, injecting garage-inspired fun into the room, the highlight of which was T2’s hit “Heartbroken”. Had there been room to dance, the track, and indeed the set would have truly ripped it up.
Thankfully, the lateness of Caribou’s set meant that alcohol and dancing had taken their toll on many of the party-goers, and at about 5 am, and halfway through his set, space began to emerge on the dance floor. Displaying just how much he has, along with Hebden, caught the dance-bug, his set was techno and electro infused, with his Daphne track “Ye Ye” eliciting the most cheers. With Hebden standing beside him behind the decks, the excitement that the first glance of the evening’s line-up had created seemed finally fulfilled, and managed to end the night on a high.
All in all, the music on the night was exemplary, and had a certain MC taken a few more breathers, and had Fabric not sold so many tickets, the night would have been a storming success. As it was, it will be remembered for many things, with the music on show unfortunately not high up on the list.