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Jay Haze

Fabric 47

(Fabric; US: 6 Oct 2009; UK: 13 Jul 2009)

Originally from Pennsylvania but residing in Berlin for the last decade, Haze has made a nice name for himself in the underground house/techno music scene. He has released records under his own name and a variety of aliases. Also, he has founded a handful of record labels, including Futuredub, Contexterrior, and TuningSpork. Indeed, the majority of the 20 tracks on Fabric 47 are culled from Haze’s various labels, and Haze has a hand in quite a few of them. But something’s off with this mix, something’s just not quite right, and it’s tough to pinpoint just what.


Hovering in the 120-beats-per-minute range and sticking to 4/4 rhythms, Fabric 47 sounds smooth and effortless. If you sink into it outside of a dancefloor setting, you may find yourself nodding off. But you get the feeling that wasn’t Haze’s intention. Maybe he was too concerned with publicizing his stable of labels, or coming across as eclectic enough. For whatever reason,  Haze has produced a mix that too often seems directionless and listless. There are too few standout moments and several that are plain turnoffs.


Haze’s own “Awakening” kicks things off nicely with a jazzy, laid back trip hop groove before segueing into the piano house of “Lil Dirrty Ghetto Bastard’s “An Hour to Fly”.  Haze has made no secret of his affinity for soul music, and a couple of the best moments on Fabric 47 are informed by classic R&B and funk. On Mike Dunn’s “Phreaky MF”, a deep, Isaac Hayes-type voice chants, “I don’t wanna be a freak / But I can’t help myself”. The vibe continues several tracks later on Miss Fitz’s “Dimentia”, with a similar voice informing you it’s “goin’ deep … stayin’ deep”, while the bass groove and disorienting dub effects follow suit.  Haze, though, keeps dropping that voice in throughout most of the mix. More often than not, it’s a distraction, offering random bits of dialogue like “Where are you lady Judy?” Likewise, the bursts of hissing white noise almost literally let air out of the mix. If they were meant to add atmosphere, they’ve failed.


Throughout Fabric 47, you will get bits of house, techno, tech-house, Detroit, electro, jazz, and more. Somehow, though, it’s not as exciting as it sounds on paper. Particularly incongruous is Catrat’s “Freedom”, more of less a straight reggae track with house rhythm superimposed. Haze’s biggest mistake, though, is one other DJs have made before, on other Fabric mixes, even. The fascination with the black nationalist underground is not difficult to understand. For one thing, an impassioned cultural/political rant can just sound good over pulsating, metronomic electronic music. But when said rant is full of hate speech, as is “When the Revolution Comes” from proto-rappers Lost Poets, and coolness factor is lost. Shock value is all that’s left, but if you wanted that, wouldn’t you just track down some early Eminem?


Towards the end, Haze does reclaim some pathos for Fabric 47. Ms. Minelli’s “Ancient Blessing” has a stark Detroit feel offset by melancholy organ chords.  Haze’s own “Burning”, recorded under the unfortunate name Fuckpony, takes the mood a bit deeper, with emotive vocal samples and a minor-key synth arpeggio that could have come from mid-‘80s Depeche Mode. Only with these two tracks, two of the last of the mix, does Haze establish a consistent feel. That is offset immediately, however, by the rapping on Rockey’s “Something to Say”.


The Last Poets misstep aside, none of the tracks on Fabric 47 is bad. In fact, in a different context, many of them would stand out. As Haze has presented them, however, they are more of a haphazard collection that happen to share a tempo and rhythm, rather than a floor-filler, mood-setter, or even a reflection of Haze’s interests or influences. Several simply float by and are gone in a minute or two. That leaves the but one conclusion. Fabric 47 functions primarily as a promotional sampler for Haze and his various labels and projects, a function that many Fabric releases transcend. Perhaps not coincidentally, Fabric 47 is also one of the weaker Fabric mixes in recent memory.

Rating:

John Bergstrom has been writing various reviews and features for PopMatters since 2004. He has been a music fanatic at least since he and a couple friends put together The Rock Group Dictionary in third grade (although he now admits that giving Pat Benatar the title of "first good female rocker" was probably a mistake). He has done freelance writing for Trouser Pressonline, Milwaukee's Shepherd Express, and the late Milk magazine and website. He currently resides in Madison, Wisconsin with his wife and two kids, both of whom are very good dancers.


Tagged as: jay haze | last poets
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