This time, it’s not just about the music. The 90th installment of the famed Fabric DJ series carries with it a more existential import. Just as the mix by London native Paul Rose aka Scuba was released, the namesake Fabric club in London was shut down. Its license was revoked after two underage patrons died after taking illegal drugs at Fabric, the latest in a series of drug-related deaths associated with Fabric.
The global electronic dance music community dutifully stepped in to protest, advocate, and raise money, which worked as Fabric will now re-open soon. Rose decided to donate all revenue from Fabric 90 to the cause. In this case, the mix fits the occasion. It is dense, uncompromising, and deadly serious. Rose layers and melds the material, resulting in nearly 50 titles wedged into 19 separate tracks. Fabric 90 is not so much about trying to pick out exactly what is what. Rather, it’s about introducing, shaping, and honing a feeling, a mood. And it succeeds.
Call it progressive, call it minimal, call it “dubstep with a twist.” Whatever this is, it’s rhythm-driven, instrumental, electronic dance music. In that sense, it’s pretty pure. A considerable amount of the material comes from Rose’s Hotflush label and is of recent vintage. Hotflush stalwarts Dense & Pika make several appearances. Rose uses the format to showcase some new signees as well. One of those, Isaac Reuben, gets two of the mix’s only stand-alone tracks. The mechanical thump of his “sas1711” is briefly tempered by a soft synth pad, while “Echo Pulse” conforms to its title, piling on the layers of drum machines.
There are some older tracks and “classics,” too. The electronic pitter-patter of “Astronauten / Uhura” gives way to the familiar four-on-the-floor rhythm that never really subsides from that point on. Throughout, there are what sounds like cacophonous space duels, car crashes, and explosions. “Quadra Sette / Ultra Deep” with its chattering hi-hats, and “Ambiguity / Rạng Đông” with its vaguely Eastern sequencer melody, recall a bit of the classic Detroit and Chicago house sounds. “Praise Your Name / Eksibit / Flusso Dinamico” threatens to go full acid, while “Consignia / XLB” is like a distillation of all the best vintage arcade game effects that you can dance to.
Rose even subverts the traditional end-of-mix chillout track, instead of going with an eight-minute mini-mix of psychedelia, free jazz, and droning machines. Like the rest of Fabric 90, it isn’t easy or obvious, but it is creative, immersive, and ultimately rewarding.
Rose and his fellow Fabric fans got an even bigger reward when, a month after Fabric 90’s release, Fabric was allowed to re-open with some new safety restrictions, turning what might have been a eulogy into a defiant celebration.