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Fabric 38

(Fabric; US: 12 Feb 2008; UK: 14 Jan 2008)

Slain by Subtlety

“We try…not to be minimal…because that’s not us,” claim M.A.N.D.Y. in their press bio, preferring the term “subtle” to describe their chosen form of electronic dance music. Nobody in the music business likes to be pigeonholed. But “minimal” and “tech house” are the labels most often placed on the music of M.A.N.D.Y., aka Berlin-based DJs Patrick Bodmer and Philipp Jung, and the Get Physical label they co-founded in 2002. Those descriptors could also apply to the 25 tracks on this, M.A.N.D.Y.‘s contribution to the vaunted Fabric mix series.

Those who prefer their DJ mixes to slap them upside the head already have plenty to choose from, some of the Fabric and Fabriclive mixes included. There’s nothing wrong with taking an approach other than the flashy, often bombastic one many DJs seem to prefer. The line between “subtle” and “boring” is a thin one, however, and on Fabric 38, M.A.N.D.Y. fall on the “boring” side a little too often. You can’t knock the duo’s impeccable taste and exquisite mixing and sequencing skills. This mix goes down easy; too easy, in fact. Unless you’re paying close attention, the hour-plus playing time just slips away.

M.A.N.D.Y. start things off right. It’s a thrill to hear a modern DJ mix announce itself with Yello’s fun-loving, proto-techno gem “Bananas to the Beat” from 1980. The selection is brilliant, and an encouraging sign of the breadth of Bodmer and Jung’s taste and influences. Unfortunately, none of the ensuing choices inspires the same level of surprise or enthusiasm. 

The interlocking percussion of Guillaume & Couto Dumonts’s “Mederico” has a distinctly gamelan-like feel to it. Lucio Aquilina’s “My Cube” employs an unsettling, minor key, music box sound, resulting in at least a hint of an edge. But, like most of Fabric 38, it’s too delicate and too, well, subtle. Actually, you have to wait until the breakdown on Deadset’s “Farm House”, 18 tracks in, to hear much of a variation in overall sound, tempo, or flow. If you’re listening on headphones or testing out your ultra-upper-end home stereo, you might be able to get lost in the carefully-controlled sounds and panning effects. If not, though, you’ll hear an overspill of atmosphere and a paucity of engagement.

M.A.N.D.Y. almost seem to recognize the dire need of some sort of change, because from “Farm House” on, they at least attempt to break the mix out of its straightjacket. The layered, menacing electro of Mark August’s remix of Simon Flower’s “The Whisper Had It” is a definite highlight. The Sebo K & Metro remix of Basic Soul Unit’s “Tunnels” gets a lot of mileage out of a nifty, chiming doorbell effect. Furthermore, Julian Ganzer’s remix of Lopazz’s “2 Fast 4 U” has some sass and, daresay, funk. The dub mix of Mike Monday’s “Bhalobashi” actually has a slowed-down, dub rhythm. Unfortunately, this variation comes much too late in the mix for Bodmer and Jung to do much with it.

M.A.N.D.Y. do deserve credit for not turning Fabric 38 into a Get Physical sampler, of which several already exist. The handful of selections from their own label are representative, as co-founders DJ T. and Booka Shade both provide tracks. M.A.N.D.Y.‘s own new track, “Don’t Stop”, is like a 30-second horror movie soundtrack, definitely a minor work.

Between bombast and boredom, there has to be a middle ground, even when “minimal” music is concerned. Fabric 38 doesn’t quite find it.


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.

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