Simian Mobile Disco: Fabriclive.41

[14 September 2008]

By Dan Raper

The guys from Simian Mobile Disco have taken a different approach to their appearance on the venerable FabricLive series of mixes. Instead of curating, like similarly popular electro acts Cut Copy and Rub-N-Tug, a disposable, feel-good party mix, the London production duo aim to cement their legitimacy as premier DJs with an uncompromising if wide-ranging mix aimed squarely at the dancefloor.

There are fewer vocals and more inventive, maximal beats on FabricLive 41 than on the group’s album from last year. Still, some familiar names like Shit Robot and Green Velvet do get a spin. The Shit Robot song, “Chasm”, is an electro monster, complete with overpowering sirens, high tempo synth attacks, and syncopated beat. Meanwhile, Green Velvet’s “Flash” has still, after eight years, perfected that washed-out feeling of nostalgia. Its fuzzy, machine-gun drums and paparazzi obsession were a suitable precursor for the murky electro that has since emerged as dance music’s most popular incarnation.

The group has said that they wanted this mix to stand the test of time, to combine new and overlooked material from recent years into a FabricLive mix that sounds current, but also rewards repeat listens. I suppose that’s the aim of most of the artists who create mixes for Fabric, and while Fabriclive 41 is spirited, I’m not sure if it has enough panache to become one of the more talked-about entries. It feels workmanlike and efficient, not in a minimal sort of way, but in its adherence to what seems like a rather stringent conception for the mix’s overall arc. Extraneous sounds drain away as the mix progresses (though there are always exceptions). Late in the mix, Raymond Scott’s “Cindy Electronium” is an easy touchstone for repeat listens, filled with a buzzy, treble synth line that pings in the top register.

Simian Mobile Disco contribute two of their own songs to the mix, “Sleep Deprivation (Simon Baker Mix)” and “Simple”. The latter is mixed expertly under and into Hercules & Love Affair’s “Blind” (the Serge Santiago version, a pattering minimal treatment that occasionally explodes with blaring horns) so that this portion of the mix becomes an aggressive and heady pleasure. “Sleep Deprivation”, which comes later, is no less urgent, seeming to recoup its energy with a rattling of bones every few seconds.

On the whole, the mix is a success. Though it does cycle through a wide variety of incongruous sounds (check out the weird outer space chant on Moon Dog’s “Suite Equestria”), these are combined into a smooth and well-conceived flow with natural peaks and relaxations. That there aren’t gimmicky switch-ups or flashy melodies is a purposeful repudiation of the Girl Talk school of popular party mix, towards which Fabric Live compilations have occasionally slipped. Simian Mobile Disco are clearly more interested in curating something that serves a stated purpose: to make us dance, and to do it again. A bit of added flair would have been great, but it’s not 100% necessary. As it stands, this is a solid entry in the series for electro fans and those interested in where Simian Mobile Disco might be heading in the future.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/simian-mobile-disco-fabriclive41/