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A-Trak

Fabriclive.45

(Fabric London; UK: 13 Apr 2009)

Wonkabartender

Let’s just say it: the “party mix” is the Holy Grail of all mixtapes.


Many have tried, many have failed, and far too many sweat-covered corpses have been left by the wayside in attempts to try and reach the ultimate booty-shaking masterpiece: something that works in the car, at a frat party, on your home computer, and in a giant laser-filled club with equal force.  Some stuff that works at the frat party (numerous club-oriented rap hits) may not necessarily work in the huge laser-club, just as how that place’s affinity for trance music may not carry over well in your car during those wild late night “on the town” kind of drives.  There are exceptions to all these rules (naturally), but one masterpiece that works in all these places at once?  A dance music skeleton key, as it were?  Impossible, you say!


Enter A-Trak.


This young whiz kid is a five-time DJ world championships winner, Kanye’s touring record-spinner, and an in-demand remixer. After contributing to Nike’s Original Run series, he has finally succumbed to the call of London’s famous Fabriclive series, and here he helms the historic club/label’s 45th entry into the Fabric mix continuum.  Pulling from both the familiar and the unknown, A-Trak has managed to craft one of the funkiest, freshest, and liveliest mixes to ever grace the Fabric label, perhaps not completely achieving Holy Grail party mix status, but coming damn close in the process.


When talking about a mix like this, though, the songs themselves become somewhat secondary in critical consideration.  Instead, pacing and sequencing take center stage, and it is here that A-Trak’s skills shine through.  It opens with his own fantastic midtempo banger “Say Whoa”, the music slowly morphing from a sample-heavy pastiche to a string-filled disco thump replete with crowd noises and horn scratches (DJ Sneak’s “You Can’t Hide From Your Bud”).  The next thing you know, a Daft Punk remix of Scott Grooves’ “Mothership Reconnection” comes in, and it’s here that we realize that we’ve traveled from club-ready hip-hop to straight-up house beats in just three tracks’ time, the transition positively flawless in execution.  Then, just to mix things up, A-Trak throws in the Afrobeat-sampling “Sweet Mother” by Skepta, just for the sake of sheer eclecticism.  As a “reset” button—something so left-field that it makes you rethink what you’re listening to before starting up again—it works brilliantly.


By not playing strictly into one single genre, A-Trak’s party feels very open-ended and all-inclusive.  Straight-up club tracks (DJ Rob 3’s “The Chase”) mingle with delightfully boastful AutoTune-assisted rap numbers (DJ Class’ “I’m the Ish”), while winding scratch-heavy DJ mixes (DJ Zinc’s “138 Trek”) wind up melding with indie dance-rock songs (Alex Gopher’s “Aurora”), without once sounding forced or out of place.  A-Trak’s eclectic tastes lead us to string-heavy dance throwbacks (Fan Death’s “Veronica’s Veil”), post-Justice strobe-grinds (Zombie Nation’s “Forza”), and tracks so over-the-top ridiculous (DJ Gant-Man’s “Juke Dat Girl” rivals DJ MP3’s “The Book is on the Table” for most ridiculous ad nauseum repetition of a single phrase as the basis for a full dance song) that it’s a wonder no one has used them in a mix of this nature before.


Then again, A-Trak’s sense of humor is the greatest selling point of his Fabriclive mix. This album’s only weak moments come from the tracks that prove just a bit too serious for their own good, such as A-Trak’s own collaboration with Laidback Luke, “Shake It Down”, and Dance Area’s “AA 24/7”, tunes that are straightforward to a fault, lacking enough real color or momentum to be counted as noteworthy.  Then again, as with most tracks on this mix, both those tunes are under four minutes in length, meaning that if you don’t find them sufficient for your body-rocking needs, just wait a few seconds and the next thing you know, you’ll be off in another part of A-Trak’s multi-colored dance factory, with this Willy Wonka leading your ears through a maddeningly diverse array of traps, puzzles, and exciting aural detours.


Consider Fabriclive.45 your own personal golden ticket to the party of the year.

Rating:

Evan Sawdey started contributing to PopMatters in late 2005, and has also had his work featured in publications such as SLUG Magazine, The Metro (U.K.), Soundvenue Magazine (Denmark), the Daily Dot, and multiple national newspapers. Evan has been a guest on WNYC's Soundcheck (an NPR affiliate), was the Executive Producer for the Good With Words: A Tribute to Benjamin Durdle album (available for free at GoodWithWordsAlbum.com), and wrote the liner notes for the 2011 re-release of Andre Cymone's hit 1985 album A.C. (Big Break Records), the 2012 re-release of 'Til Tuesday's 1985 debut Voices Carry, and many others. He is a current member of The Recording Academy and resides in Chicago, Illinois. You can follow him @SawdEye should you be so inclined.


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