[26 January 2009]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
British DJs/producers Graeme Sinden and Dave “Switch” Taylor like to party. Or, more accurately, they like party music. This much has been evidenced in their bimonthly Get Familiar club nights, held, appropriately enough, at London’s Fabric club. Get Familiar, launched in 2006, was described by Sinden and Taylor as “an anything-goes eclectic club music blaze of the best in everything forward-thinking and party”. Two years later, that’s a spot-on summary of the duo’s entry in the Fabriclive series, mixed by Sinden. It’s a thumpin’, bumpin’, thrilling ride. It’s not an invitation to party so much as a directive.
Drawing mostly on up-to-the-minute releases, Sinden presents a multinational groovefest that plows headlong through genres and styles. One trait everything has in common, however, is the need to make you dance, groove, shake, and wiggle. Some mixes that take this approach evidence a sort of controlled chaos. Krafty Kuts’ recent entry in the same Fabriclive series is a case in point. While this style has its strengths, it’s like a car speeding down a curvy mountain road, careening off the guardrail at every turn. It takes some skill just to prevent everything going down in a twisted, ugly wreck. Fabriclive 43, though, as assembled, mixed, and often remixed by Sinden, is more like a dragster pointed straight down the track. The same energy’s there, just more carefully telegraphed, with a rapid acceleration followed by a graceful slowdown.
Sinden starts things off with a barrage of what can only be described as booty music. The first thing you hear is a stark electro-house pulse, followed by the swishing, syncopated hi-hat and Roland 909 blow-up that made Technotronic famous. “I’m almost ready to get on the floor,” vocalist Janina declares, “and you know baby that I want some more!” Sounds like a techno-house smash circa 1989, but this is Juiceboxxx & Dre Skull’s “Center Stage”, from 2007. The contemporary nature of this, one of several strictly limited releases that get an outing here, is given away by the off-kilter analog synth squeak that eventually works its way in. The mile-a-minute, obscenity-laden female rapping on “Club Action”, from Tampa, Florida’s Yo Majesty, is nothing short of electro-crunk. And nothing short of lots of fun. Aquasky and Actafool’s “Have a Good Time” and veteran Armand Van Helden’s “This Ain’t Hollywood” get closer to pure hip-hop with no letdown on the beats per minute—or the fun.
Sinden is sharp, though. As if he’s realized that too much booty music could degenerate into mere novelty, he shifts gears a bit. Sinden has claimed he wanted on Fabriclive 43 to explore a “world-music-meets-dance-music” theme, and the first evidence comes in the form of old pros Scottie B and King Tutt’s stomping “African Chant”. To be honest, the hyper-samba, whistles, and “boom-a-lacka” chanting make for an annoyance, but they’re soon remedied by the loopy synth of South African Mujava’s “Township Funk” and the pulsating ragga of Tigerstyle’s “Balle! Shava!”
Sinden’s ambitions are noble, and though Fabriclive 43 also features entries from France, Germany, and Portugal as well as the US and UK, the world music vibe doesn’t come across nearly as strongly as the dance music one does. This is a strength, though, because thankfully Sinden hasn’t tried to shoehorn in sounds that don’t fit.
What does fit over the mix’s remaining dozen or so tracks is an amazing, thrilling journey through a further amalgam of styles. UK “grime” is represented by a killer mash-up of Alex Braxe’s “Nightwatcher” with Double S & True Tiger’s “From Day”, and the near G-funk of Joker’s “Gully Brook Lane” and JME’s “AWOH”. Then Sinden gets a dubstep groove going, and things get the closest they’ve come to the chaos point. But like a master, Sinden reins it back in and keeps the dragster on the road.
What follows is the most seamless, effective, incredible comedown of any continuous mix in recent memory. The retro hi-NRG electro-pop of Kudu’s “Let’s Finish” is a perfect segueway between the manic energy that comes before it and the anthemic, New Order-aping beauty of M83’s “Couleurs”. Finally, the gauzy near-shoegaze of SALEM’s “Redlights” takes you into afterhours.
What makes Fabriclive 43 such a superlative set is that it rocks the party and takes you down with equal effectiveness, holding your interest all the way without pandering. You’re left feeling exhilarated, exhausted, and satisfied, whether you’ve actually been dancing or not.