This past week, following impassioned speeches from staff and local residents on its behalf, London’s legendary club Fabric had its license revoked by the local Islington Council. Bewilderment in the judgment gave way to an outpouring of sympathy and shared memories on social media.
As an American, my personal relationship to Fabric is through their mix CD series which launched late in 2001 and has issued a staggering 177 discs in the last 15 years. The series was a lifeline for following club culture from afar, their tin cases held all of the secrets from the club’s dark halls in a time that preceded YouTube, preceded Facebook, preceded instant access to any rare record you could want to hear. The Fabric mix series has a very personal significance for me as I’m sure it does for many listeners; it feels like a life that ran parallel to my own, a friend that is always clued in to the next great thing in club music.
With the club’s future in peril, so is the mix series. This is a loss for all future listeners who won’t be able to trace their futures along the contours of the world’s top selectors playing electronic music’s best music month after month. In this post, I wanted to look back at ten mixes that have stood out to me. This is not a best of list as much as it is a journey through the mixes that soundtracked my life: road trips, house parties, and those moments sat alone with headphones on enthralled by a perfect blend you can’t believe you are hearing.
James Lavelle – FabricLive 01 (2001)
The first mix in the FabricLive series and the second mix released by the club. The Mo’ Wax label head and UNKLE co-conspirator James Lavelle ushered in the series with the bowling drum solo at the end of Rare Earth’s “Get Ready” leading into the Psychonauts’ Goblin bass riff sampling “Circles,” the first two minutes of this mix and the mission is clear. Lavelle would record two excellent mixes for the Global Underground series in 2002 and 2004, but the sheer bombast in FabricLive 01‘s mix will always be the first thrilling dive into Fabric’s deep end.
DJ Spinbad – FabricLive 14 (2004)
An extreme outlier in the Fabric mix series, DJ Spinbad mixes a fantastic assemblage of NYC club hip-hop, a document of what going to a club was like on the East Coast at this time: juggles, acapellas blended over chunky instrumentals, the inclusion of Crooklyn Clan‘s ubiquitous party igniting club edits. Rambunctious fun from front to back, even though I’ve heard these songs a hundred times each I still want to hear how Spinbad puts them together.
Diplo – FabricLive 24 (2005)
Perhaps this is the mix that has aged least well on this list, Diplo‘s FabricLive 24 is a mix that I wore out, a mix that I forced people to listen to many, many times (sorry). The collision of Baile Funk, dancehall, and the Cure transitioning (somehow so well) into OutKast provide insight to the power that Hollertronix-era Diplo could wield.
Carl Craig – Fabric 25 (2005)
Easily one of the most fun mixes to listen to in the Fabric series, Carl Craig‘s voiceovers make the mix seem like it’s taking place in a living room with Craig’s seemingly effortless mixing and fantastic selection pushing the walls out. An impeccable mix I have found myself listening to several times a year, every year, since its release.
Surgeon – Fabric 53 (2010)
From a technical standpoint, this is the best mix in the Fabric series in my opinion. The mix’s thirty tracks feel like one giant, fully realized piece in Surgeon‘s hands. I had known of Surgeon before this mix peripherally, friends would laud him and his music, but this is the mix where it all locked in and made me a lifetime believer.
Shackleton – Fabric 55 (2010)
Early in 2010, I saw Shackleton on one of his rare North American appearances. The sound of his Three EPs album on Perlon was audible in the set, but alongside his powerful, pulverizing techno was a richness that I feel is more fully realized on Fabric 55, a mix made out of 22 original Shackleton productions. For my money, this is the place to start for people wanting to enter Shackleton’s world, a rewarding listen on every replay.
Jackmaster – FabricLive 57 (2011)
Hands down my favorite mix Fabric has released, one of the world’s top DJs at the height of their technical ability matched with some gleefully unorthodox crate digging picks. Who mixes Splack Pack into Underground Resistance, DJ Funk into AFX, and somehow keep the train on the rails? Jackmaster makes the impossible seem obvious. For me, this mix is a highlight reel of examples of what a real DJ can be, the Jordan dunking from the freethrow line of DJ mixes.
Ben Klock – Fabric 66 (2012)
A no-brainer here, one of the world’s perennially top rated DJs with an incredible stack of tracks in the mix. It’s another Fabric mix filled with highlights, but for me Ben Klock‘s edits shine brightest here. A low key edit of Burial’s “Raver” sneaks into the mix near the half way mark and Klock’s remix of Josh Wink’s “Are You There?” is so good, it was released 18 months later to the fanfare reserved for new releases.
Elijah & Skilliam – FabricLive 75 (2014)
I saw Elijah & Skilliam DJ alongside Flava D a month after the release of this mix. Elijah & Skilliam’s first mix album appeared on Rinse in 2011, but this mix for Fabric is a high octane proof of concept: Butterz is the label. Their live set that summer followed the same ethos, two of grime music’s best evangelists making it feel like the most intense music currently being produced.