Comedy in music is always a risk. In itself, comedy is like a separate language, with its own sets of rules about timing, irony, perceived audience, and social barriers. So, translating that language to another language, music, and not leaving either indecipherable is a tricky prospect. A good composition with poor schtick can ruin the song and a nice gag in a poor song is pretty much worthless.
If dance music was as cutting edge as it sometimes proclaims itself to be, it might be brimming with comedy. The generally po-faced Martijn Deykers, best known around the globe as Martyn, has made a series of solid records over the last few years, but few would associate him with either comedy or risk. Even as his recordings crossed the event horizon from the black hole of late era drum n’ bass into a kind of liminal proto-techno dubstep, his grooves and beats were hypnotic and narcotic in a kind of universally appealing sort-of-way.
Yet, Martyn starts his mix for the eponymous Fabric series, which is based around the club in London (who also put out the FabricLive series), with the fairly jokey “Joy Fantastic” by Hudson Mohawke and “host with the most” Olivier Daysoul. Granted, the song is only goofy in a kind of Dr. Funkenstein, neon cartoon psych kind of way, but that doesn’t mean that Martyn hedges risk throughout the rest of his mix. That he abandons this position of humor, irony, and joy immediately following the isolated cut is indicative of the trajectory of the mix to follow, that being anywhere the pong-like volleys off of the 2010 record stacks take him. As Daysoul opines several verses before surrendering his vocals to Muppets, “There is so much here for you to see and do, it’s insane / And by the time you reach the halfway mark, you’ll forget your name”.
It’s actually quite a surprise how well this particular set has been received then given that the circumstances of its itinerancy have the potential to ward off crowds. There’s the way the way the Latin-flavored funky house is momentarily catheterized to make way for the minimalist acid-ic bass and house-shaking SFX of Leon Vincent’s “Air Raid”. There’s the brief chill out room of Cooly G surrounded on all sides by the dripping sweat of high temperature intensity. And practically no one except for the few indie kids who bought Great Lengths on a lark could be happy about Martyn’s inclusion of his remix of the Detachments’ “Circles”, which sounds like it crawled right out of 2002’s attempts to crawl of 1979’s asshole.
Unlike a DJ mix proper, there’s no club night here. It speeds up and slows down at will, switches genre, and erases each micro-thesis it may have begun to express. It’s to Martyn’s eternal credit that one barely even notice that, for instance, Zomby’s “Mercury’s Rainbow” is 2.5 minutes of ethereal arpeggio with no percussion to be found in a mix full of riddim, riddim, riddim. After the explosion of juicy flavor packed into “Joy Fantastic”, the first quarter of Fabric 50 is largely the most stripped Funky House around — dense, impenetrable hand-drum pounding and bare bones electro bass shuffles, such as Nubian Mindz’s delectable “Bossa Boogie”.
The repeat value on this sucker is high as you’ll be scrambling to figure out what the hell it was that you just heard. While it takes a sincere bout of faith to champion a mix this drastically and intentionally inconsistent, Martyn makes the argument for 2010 in a way that maybe no other artist could.