[13 October 2008]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Âme are best-known for their 2005 deep house club smash “Rej”. That classic track has a stark, minimal sound. For their addition to the Fabric mix series, though, the German duo of Kristian Beyer and Frank Wiedemann draw on a broader spectrum of influences. Fabric 42 features plenty of deep house, but also puts loungey jazz, funk, dub, techno, and even some classic house into the mix. This diversity makes Fabric 42 a rich experience to which the term “tapestry” readily applies. It’s just too bad that in their desire to shake things up, Âme have made one crucial mistake.
It’s unclear whether Âme intended Those Guys’ “An American Poem” to be such an unnerving and dominating presence in the mix. The track is built around an intense, profane, graphically violent rant by African American activist Ras Baraka. The point seems to be how the official version of the American Dream is indifferent to the trials and travails of many African Americans. That’s heady stuff for a mix that starts off with lush, tasteful, jazz-tinged house sounds, or most any dance mix, for that matter. It’s definitely a “needle scraping the record in a crowded bar” moment. That’s not to say there’s no place for provocative language, profanity, or politics in dance music. It’s just that in this context “An American Poem” comes across as a careless, cheap trick. It nearly spoils what is otherwise a pretty satisfying, well-crafted mix.
As for that beginning, Linkwood’s “Hear the Sun” establishes the low-key yet engaging vibe with its humid, swampy feel. Bird calls, electric piano, and horn squeals set the mood, and the deep synth pad seals the deal. Rain sticks and wind tubes are also part of the early going, but the deep beats ensure this won’t be mistaken for Merl Saunders’ rainforest music. This all leads to another of Fabric 42‘s sampled voices, and this one works brilliantly. A meandering monologue from avant-garde pioneer Moondog is laid atop Jens Zimmerman’s exotic, minimal “ModMod BlubbBlub”. “You are opportunist the worst way…therefore, I pray, let it pay for you to know me,” Moondog says, a koto straying into the background. It’s like a 21st century Timothy Leary record, and it’s fun without being too campy.
A couple tracks later comes the mild feminism of Armando’s “Don’t Take It”, a vintage Chicago house track from 1988. It’s amazing, if not necessarily surprising, how well the vintage Roland hi-hats and that wheezing synth-bass sound fit in with material that’s 20 years more recent, the track segueing nicely into the pseudo-rave synth of STL’s “Something Is Raw”. And that leads right into “An American Poem”.
The remainder of the mix never quite gets out from under “An American Poem”‘s shadow. The bouncy bass of 76 79’s “Six Ten” makes a good go of it, ushering in faster tempos, harder beats, and longer tracks. Here, though, the snippets of sampled and manipulated voices start to annoy. The “Do you feel it!” and James Brown grunt of KB Project’s 1997 “The Symphony” add a welcome bit of soul. And it’s tough to argue with LFO and F.U.S.E.‘s 1993 classic “Loop”, but, again, it just doesn’t quite fit in this context. You get the sense that Beyer and Wiedemann are trying too hard to work in those influences.
Throughout, the mixing is solid, with lots of blending between tracks. Especially for its first half, Fabric 42 is more like a single, expertly-manipulated composition. It’s just too bad this one has to be labeled “NSFW”.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/me-fabric-42/