There’s been a lot of talk about the current renaissance in techno — much of it quite deserved. Although techno never really went away, it was overshadowed by other genres that rose to prominence in the electronic music world, some of which succeeded in capturing the imagination of a fickle music press for a brief time before fading back into the hazy obscurity of the underground. There were many — big beat, trance, progressive house, UK garage / two-step, elecroclash — all of which came on strong and contributed ideas of lasting import to the scene, but which also ceded the spotlight after comparatively brief reigns. Now, perhaps as a function of the general quietude that seems to have settled over the normally roiling seas of dance music, techno has risen again to the forefront of the progressive music world, buoyed by a mass of talented producers and supported in America by a surprisingly receptive domestic music press.
Of course, the techno that has received the bulk of the attention has been the relatively recent subgenre of “microhouse”. Best exemplified by the thin and ascetic minimal house of Germany’s Kompakt label, the new wave of techno has reinvigorated the critical perception of a long-overlooked field. Of course, Adam Beyer’s latest installment in the respected Fabric series is not microhouse. Beyer is Swedish, and as such this is mostly old-school, pounding techno that draws a direct lineage to the electrified thump of Detroit producers such as Juan Atkins and Derrick May as well as early ’90s industrial such as Nitzer Ebb. Beyer could have easily dropped “No UFOs” into the mix without any real stylistic disparity. Cari Lekebusch’s “Motions of Energy” even sounds like it could be a vintage Model 500 B-side. On the other hand, it would be impossible to discount the impact of the currently-dominant styles: while Beyer’s mix is far more aggressive and kinetic than most microhouse, the genre’s trademark emphasis on clipped tones and delicate frequencies is present in tracks like Alex Under’s “Las Bicicletas Son Para El Verano” and Wink’s remix of DJ Mink’s “A Walk in the Park”.
The mix follows an interesting progression, beginning slowly with a more laid-back feel before ramping up the tempo and hitting the accelerator. The Wighnomy Brothers & Robag Wruhme remix of Slam & Tyrone Palmer’s “This World” starts the mix on a deceptively glitchy feel, with a chopped asthetic that brings to mind the likes of Matthew Herbert or Akufen. From there the beats start to get increasingly hard. A few tracks later, the Alkaloid Docking Station Mix of The Gadgets’ “System” introduces a more frenetic percussive pattern. By the time Osborne’s “In Gear” (courtesy of the sterling Ghostly International label) comes into play the disc has reached cruising altitude.
Fabric 22 also serves as a showcase for some of Beyer’s own production. The Osborne track is followed by the second part of his “Snuff & Noise”, and part one is just a couple songs after that. The second part is more laid back, almost leisurely, compared to the first, which brings the disc close to late-era Speedy J territory, with harder beats and increasingly dense production. Sure enough, tracks like Alex Long’s “Serton” and Tony Rohr’s “Slowburn” are appropriately hard.
But as the disc segues into the final fourth, a slight retro feel creeps across the tracks. Reinhard Voigt’s “Spice” (the compilation’s one Kompakt track) sounds like an early ’90s industrial dance dub-plate, while Sterac’s “Completed” reminds me of early British acid. This leads to the full-on Detroit push of the aforementioned Lekebusch track, as well as Beyer & Jesper Dahlback’s “Redemption”, which slides and pulses like late ’80s New York electro. The album’s capstone, the Circles in Time remix of Hiem’s “She’s the One” even pulls out the new wave synths and faded Cory Hart vocals to provide a slightly cheeky — if still enduringly funky — send-off.
I have never been less than satisfied with the Fabric series, and this installment proves no exception. If Beyer’s sound, inculcated in the Swedish underground of the late ’90s, can be said to possess any distinctive unifying theme, it would be the willingness to join disparate sounds from across multiple scenes in order to create a cohesive whole. Considering how seemingly inconsequential the generic boundaries separating techno styles can be to outsiders, the willingness of a DJ like Beyer to present a unified front across the entirety of the modern techno establishment speaks well for the possibility of a new ethos dedicated to bridging the gaps that past generations sought to widen.