The best DJ sets are those in which a collection of great songs is surpassed by the mix itself. It becomes one coherent experience as opposed to moments of, “Hey! I love this tune!”
The Fabric label has been remarkably consistent in cultivating releases that let the listener disappear into the music for an hour or so of their lives. They have brought the dance club out into the field, so to speak, and in doing so have become more than a replay of a night out dancing. A lot of their releases work even if you’re at home making yourself some eggs and thinking about Brideshead Revisited.
Thus enter FreQ Nasty and Fabriclive 42. Over 24 tracks and 75 minutes, we are taken on a journey that includes rock guitar, vocal screeching, mad programmed beats, spoken word, and what sounds like a junkyard being rampaged late at night. One can imagine the sweat dripping off everyone at a dark club but I’ve listened to this loudly in my small, sunny kitchen, speeding on the interstate, stuck in traffic, and as background music while I paid my monthly bills. It’s worked every time.
What is most compelling is FreQ Nasty’s seeming fascination with the intersection between dense noise and space. Beats come first but there should be no mistaking the importance of that place between the beats. This is FreQ Nasty’s strength. If one can picture a great mix as a straight line, then FreQ Nasty is able to make that line waver, as if seen through great heat.
Tracks like “Snared” (FreQ Nasty vs. Heavyweight Dub Champion) lay back long enough with Zen-like repetition to allow the following song, “Oi! Killa!” (TRG), to kill with a mix of techno tunnel effect, bullhorn, and skronky computer manipulation. “Thunder Gutter” (Epydemix) has a hint of a disco beat to lead the listener in, then becomes a lesson in cool percussion before breaking down and delivering the moment of respite needed to allow all the energy to gather again. “Viva Tibet” (FreQ Nasty vs. Bassnectar) combines reggae, industrial, and synthesizer, and is an absolute highlight.
FreQ Nasty’s love of London and its constant genre-shifting abilities comes across throughout, with so many styles mashed together they garner attention only through repeated listens. Sometimes it’s only in one of his shifts that a hint of something unexpected will occur: Britpop, electronica, grime. A flaw may be in the insistence of too much, but this is also meant to be something overwhelming.
Some mixes get by on sheer energy but it’s a testament to the artistry of FreQ Nasty that there can be such ample use of “downtime” that it only increases the tension so that there are many moments when it sounds as if a song has actually exploded. Unlike others working in his field, he doesn’t merely let a song drop out and then slam back in again. Instead, he takes the shifting tempo and adds a layer or three, playing with the break as if it’s his own sandbox and no one else is around so he’s going to keep shifting the sand around to create new designs, sometimes stopping to daydream along the way.