It’s hard not to know who Spank Rock is these days. The Two-DJ and MC hip-hop trio responsible for the brilliant YoYoYoYoYo have officially blown up. And, aside from appearances on late night television and countless magazine articles, their newfound notoriety has afforded them the opportunity to curate the latest mix in the Fabriclive series released by Fabric Nightclub in London. MC Spank Rock takes a backseat here, as DJ Ronnie Darko and producer Alex Upton put together a mix consisting of an often fragmented 29 tracks.
The results are pretty great on the whole. The continuous mix is always exciting, always danceable, and always fresh. We get started with Kurtis Blow’s “The Breaks” and it sets the scene for a mix informed by early hip-hop, but not bogged down by it. Using Blow and others from the hip-hop game as a base, the Spank Rock crew bounce around from electronica to drums and bass to newer hip-hop to old school R&B to disco and back again through them all. One can easily picture a dance floor of people shaking it hard to this mix, unwilling to stop because, well, Fabriclive 33 doesn’t give you a chance to stop. Spank Rock is aware of how difficult it is to cultivate a dance mix this long and make it continuously engaging, and you can feel their hard work here.
There are inclusions in the mix that may evoke surprise or even controversy in the dance sect. Songs like Yes’ “Owner of a Lonely Heart”, the Contours’ “Do You Love Me”, and the Romantics’ “Talking in Your Sleep” are peppered throughout. On first listen, these could be seen as shock picks, included to trip up the listener/dancer and maybe add an element of irony to the mix. But a second listen, or a really keen ear, shows a different purpose for such inclusions. Spank Rock are eager, it seems, to celebrate a wide-swath of music, and not be contained by the conventions of modern dance music. The shift into these more “retro” segments of the mix aren’t jarring at all, and in fact make for some of the best bits here. There isn’t any irony in including Yes; it just seems like the best fit for its space on the record.
All that being said, the standouts on Fabriclive 33 are pretty obvious. It might be surprising that Yes and the Romantics fare so well here, but it would seem hard to include them if Spank Rock hadn’t put the time in to mix them the way they did. After those, contributions from Daft Punk, Mylo, Hot Chip, and Tangerine Dream unsurprisingly shine. A remix of Metro Area’s “Orange Alert” by DFA, and Spank Rock’s own remix of CSS’ “Let’s Make Love and Listen to Death From Above” (a solid, understated improvement on the original) make for arguably the two best song on the whole album. All these typical hard-hitters eventually weigh the mix down a little, as the listener finds themselves waiting for the next DFA or Hot Chip or Mylo track. So, if the mix is meant to not only make you dance, but open you up to new dance and hip hop acts, it may fall short in that respect.
Fabriclive 33 is also not an album that really opens up questions and challenges assumptions about dance music. Or, rather, it does, but much in the same way acts like Girl Talk and Herbert and any good remix do. But to make that leap might be taking this mix too seriously. Give Spank Rock credit for giving us a whole chunk of brilliant ass-shake here. The execution is strong, and questions of innovation shouldn’t stand in the way of enjoying this record. If there is a point of interest in this record, it is how many different types of music inform Spank Rock’s own work. Something here—though it may be tough to pinpoint exact moments—lends some insight into Spank Rock’s brand of mad-scientist, mathematical hip hop. They show their influences to be many and varied and that is what, in the end, makes their music so rewarding. The same is true of this mix, so if you’ve got a house party coming up, pick up Fabriclive 33 and when you can’t bump The Sound of Silver or Night Ripper anymore, pop this in and watch the party keep on rocking, hard as ever.
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