In Kill Bill Volume 2, when the ruthless character named Bill tells his brother Budd that the Bride sliced and diced her way through O-ren Ishii’s band of rogues and marauders known as the Crazy 88, Budd’s response is, “You tellin’ me she cut her way through 88 bodyguards ‘fore she got to O-ren?” To that, Bill replies, “Nah, there wasn’t really 88 of ‘em, they just call themselves the Crazy 88… I guess they thought it sounded cool.”
Similarly, you might wonder, “Why is Evil Nine called ‘Evil Nine’?” Well, I don’t know the answer any more than Bill knew why the Crazy 88 was the “Crazy 88”, but I do know this—there aren’t nine of ‘em. It’s Tom Beaufoy and Pat Pardy, the evil geniuses behind the name, and they have been busy reshaping the breakbeat vibe by fusing it with techno, rock, hip-hop, and electronica. Who knows—maybe, like the Crazy 88, Beaufoy and Pardy just thought the name Evil Nine sounded cool. If so, let’s trust their instincts, since these guys seem to have a firm handle on what “cool” is.
Fabric, the popular club in London, regularly releases party mixes based on the music played for its dance floor. Mixes are supervised and coordinated by guest producers and DJs. The Fabriclive series is but one of the two product lines Fabric compiles and sells on its own label. The caliber of the club’s guests has ensured a steady supply of partygoers and positive press. Moreover, the mixes themselves are generally quite good.
Both the Fabriclive and the Fabric collections have reached their 28th release. As sequels go, the longevity is remarkable.
That’s where Evil Nine came into the picture, having been recruited by the club to host Fabriclive 28. As capable as they are, these guys must have had their hands full with this latest Fabriclive incarnation. It can’t be easy for anyone—even an expert—to recreate the club scene on a recording, since the wondrous nocturnal trappings of the club scene are nonexistent on compact disc. On CD, there are no pretty girls or handsome guys to get you in the mood to bob your head and hit the dance floor. On CD, you don’t have a built-in supply of alcohol to help make a lame mix sound good, either.
Evil Nine’s attempt to translate a live vibe into a live-sounding digital vibe comes after the Herbaliser’s Fabriclive 26 and on the heels of DJ Format’s high-quality Fabriclive 27. Both were exceptional collections. Not only did Evil Nine have to become the music version of Atlas in order to carry on the quality of the previous 27 solid releases, our resident evil artists had to follow two of the best compilations in the bunch.
Evil Nine rose to the challenge with gusto. This 17-song collection finds the duo delivering the goods with an hour and 13 minutes of thumping jams. The first number, Evil Nine’s remix of “Where Is It?” by Will Saul featuring Ursula Rucker, starts the project with exactly the right vibe. “Where Is It?” opens on an earth-shaking drumbeat, creating a marching effect that adds a suitable contrast to Ms. Rucker’s laidback and vulnerable spoken word vocals. When Ms. Rucker asks, “Where is my freedom?” in that solitary way that resembles a plea for help, the music continues to pound and pump as if with a specific destination of freedom in sight. “Democracy? Or hypocrisy?” she queries. At a little over six and a half minutes, “Where Is It?” is the album’s longest and, arguably, best track.
The crown for best track might also go to the last song, the Clash’s “London Calling”, for its catchy hook and steady rebellious drum. Like the Herbaliser’s inclusion of Eric B. & Rakim’s “Paid in Full” on Fabriclive 26, Evil Nine realized it was virtually impossible to go wrong with a legendary band. Same thing goes for producers. Digitalism pumps remixes for Daft Punk’s “Technologic” and Test Icicles “What’s Your Damage?” Meanwhile, Riton does the honors on the re-rub of Riton’s own “Anger Man” and Riton’s extended dub of the Mystery Jets’ “The Boy Who Ran Away”.
The number by the Mystery Jets exemplifies Evil Nine’s approach to this set. With few exceptions, heavy bass and even heavier drums successfully drive the album. In addition to “The Boy Who Ran Away”, the formula is best exemplified on cuts like “The Dogs” by Bassbin Twins and “Volta 82” by Boys Noize. Sometimes, the bass isn’t quite so heavy; instead, it actually bubbles like water, as in Riton’s “Anger Man”, and wiggles, like in Thomas Schumacher’s “Kickschool 79”.
Around this scaffolding of bass and drum, the songs are constructed with vocal samples, synths, rock-infusions, and classic breaks. In particular, the songs with vocal samples bring a peculiar layer of dissonance, as in the ultra-chic “Ready to Uff” by Uffie, “Round and Round” by the Bodyrockers, and Franz Ferdinand’s “The Fallen (Ruined by Justice)”. For rock-infusion, you can’t do better than Adam Freeland’s remix of B-Movie’s “Nowhere Girl” or the aforementioned gem by the Clash.
Thankfully, there’s enough variety and musical innovation here to avoid the usual complaints leveled at producers and DJs—“It’s pretty good, but too repetitive.” Evil Nine avoided this by stirring things up, inviting artists with creative basslines and vibrations. The result, as a body of work, might be a step behind the Herbaliser’s Fabriclive 26 and DJ Format’s Fabriclive 27, but it’s certainly a worthy addition to the series.