After two hundred physical CD releases, fabric declared the end of both the “fabric” and “FABRICLIVE” CD mix series as we know it. Covering the breaks themed Friday nights and beats themed Saturday nights, the series reached its total with an unwavering commitment to bring you the established, the nascent and the unexpected, month in, month out.
Its final contribution is provided by director of music Craig Richards and the ever present resident Terry Francis, plus self-confessed vinyl absorb-er and club co-founder Keith Reilly. Disregarding the obvious numerical milestone, it feels like an appropriate time for the fabric series to evolve and fabric100 marks the perfect bookend to the series, with Craig and Terry returning to finish what they started.
Looking back towards the single digit entries, it also highlights how far FABRICLIVE has evolved since its original remit of representing the then buoyant breaks scene—spearheaded by residents James Lavelle and Ali B—into something that drifted into full force techno mixes, a territory usually associated with the Saturday night.
Kode 9 and Burial’s entry as the final FABRICLIVE session, while a harlequin of a mix, embodied the journey of the series, taking in the club’s pivotal role in the grime and dubstep scene, joining the dots between entities such as Luke Slater, R&S Records and Ben Frost, while nodding towards drum’n’bass and footwork along the way. Indeed FABRICLIVE itself has seen the need to evolve with the Friday nights never quite the same since the club’s enforced closure two years ago.
This has not been a negative step, with the club seeing a greater diversity in terms of events, discussion forums and specific nights showcasing new blood being brought to the platform. In comparison to its mercurial sibling, the fabric series has been as unerring as the metronome that underpins the manifesto of Chicago and Detroit. Let us not undersell its significance—a journey through the hundred strong catalogue is like running your fingers over the rings of a tree stump, with the shifts in vogue being tangible.
The first of these rings was when fabric opened in London back in 1999. It did so at a pivotal point in the evolution of the nightclub. After a decade of dominance, the so-called super clubs were facing a crisis of identity, trying to tie together the disparate aims of commercial success through big name headliners and brand identity, while not extinguishing the embers of creativity essential to reinvention and survival.
Pick out the early entries in the Ministry Of Sound ‘Sessions‘ mixes or Global Underground’s behemoth, and then skip forward towards the latter end of the catalogue. You can almost feel the well running dry as these objects began to move towards the mutually exclusive. Copy and paste this across any number of one time bastions of the scene—Golden, Gatecrasher, Cream, Sankeys, Renaissance—and the result was the same. fabric’s aim was different. It simply took the superclub sized venue and applied an intimate club “music first” policy.
Launching into an increasing volatile market was a maverick move, especially when faced with stiff competition in the form of Leicester Square’s Home that also launched within the same time-frame. While fabric began stamping its music policy across the brick walls of Smithfield’s former meat market underground storage area, Home was beaming the first ever Big Brother live feed across a huge external screen and serving up DJ sets from The Chemical Brothers and Futureshock as guests alongside residents Danny Rampling and Paul Oakenfold as it played to super club trope.
Anecdotally—as someone who experienced both venues in that first year—one exuded impersonal impermanence while the other welcomed with a bodysonic hug. That we are sitting here nineteen years later discussing Farringdon’s brave venture goes to show how astute Reilly and Leslie’s vision was.
When it came to defining a sound for fabric’s Saturday night, the club turned to Craig Richards and Terry Francis to provide guidance. Focusing on the latter, Terry rose to fame in the late nineties through his Wiggle parties alongside other fabric regulars Nathan Coles and “Evil” Eddie Richards.
Despite not courting column inches, he found himself winning Musik Magazine’s “Best New DJ” award in 1997, appearing its covermount CD, and going on to do commissioned sessions for Pagan Records with a vibe that wasn’t quite house, wasn’t quite techno. It became a philosophy for the club, it was tech house and—with absolutely no fear of sounding hackneyed—tech house wasn’t a genre, it was a feeling.
As we casually sneer with copy and pasted memes about the single aural facet that some are using to define as tech house today, it is worth remembering that it—like many of the great genres that rose up unable to be directly pinned to either Detroit or Chicago—was a sound without rules.
Cast your eyes and your ears over Terry’s Essential Mix from 1998 and you’ll spy Yoshitoshi on the cusp of its brilliant Yoshiesque stretch, epitome of deep house Guidance Recordings, pillars of house music from both sides of the Atlantic in the form of Junior Boys Own and Strictly Rhythm, a full spectrum representation from Charles Webster through Peace Division and up to Joel Mull, and—incredibly—The Lighthouse Family. These strains were woven together by a man whose peerless sense of timing could have seen him double as a human metronome. As someone who was often under the spell of Francis in the early years, his command of the dance floor was no less than captivating.
Terry has committed to this sound through and through with a direct line connecting fabric02 and fabric100. Sure, the tempo has mellowed somewhat, however the spirit is still there. With the much needed dissolution of genre boundaries happening over the latter part of this decade, this session is a chance for Francis to shine again.
On this front, time has not always been so kind, with his fabric28 Wiggle session—alongside Nathan Coles—perhaps overlooked as the media moved its hyper-specific lens from progressive to tech house to minimal and all but excluded anything that didn’t fit the mould. Nothing illustrates this better than the inclusion of Argy ‘Love Dose‘ in its original form on the Wiggle mix.
When fabric28 came out, everyone was losing their mind over the brilliantly eccentric Luciano remix, who—at the time—was courting headlines alongside Ricardo Villalobos with their off the wall Chilean sound. Yet, for Francis, the original—sultry and hypnotic—was the version that made sense, and it appears here again on fabric100. It defines his sound—a taut steady tick with a bass line that punches at your chest. Bass lines—it transpires—are the element that define a Francis set, not a ragged break or searing lead.
They are sometimes melodic and sing-along—Unknown ‘Emotional Blackmail‘, Andre Salmon ‘Where Is The Salmon‘, Gel Abril ‘Carpet Sneak‘—other times they fire out like morse code—Joeski ‘Cross Over feat. Jesante‘, Funtopia feat. Jimi Polo ‘Do You Wanna Know‘, Kevin Yost ‘Dancer Dancer‘—and sometimes they just wiggle—Blue Wig ‘No Ignorance Part 1‘, Unknown ‘Project Wipeout‘.
While Francis took his understated warehouse vibe to the club and committed to walking that line within the four walls, Richards always had one eye on the horizon. At the turn of the millennium, Craig was best known as Tyrant alongside fellow DJ Lee Burridge, a partnership that was credited with bringing Sasha out of a progressive malaise in the post-Northern Exposure era.
Looking back at the time of their critically acclaimed mix CDs—the second of which appeared on fabric as a standalone entry away from the main series—the signs were clear that progressive was walking into a creative cul-de-sac. The blend of tech house, breaks, weird archive deep cuts and continental techno, held a torch to a path that others would follow. While Lee set his sights on the globe and the Tyrant partnership dissolved, Craig took up residency and London began to direct culture in a fashion that Chicago, Detroit and New York did throughout the eighties and nineties.
2001’s inaugural scene setting mix of the fabric series was a refreshing alternative to the increasingly sludgy Global Underground emissions. As we incrementally progressed, fabric began painting a picture of the techy flavours of the UK capital and of the US West Coast. However, it was as he donned the Tyrant moniker as a solo entity that it became evident that a Craig Richards mix was to represent a seismic shift in tastes.
Funky, straight laced tech house was replaced with the eccentric world of minimal, and names such as Villalobos and Luciano, Trapez, Michael Mayer and Kompakt, Cocoon, and Perlon started to become commonplace. This proved to be one of the final throes of electronic music’s path finding phase, quickly threading between hype genres, establishing micro scenes that extinguished under the pressures of self-defined and exclusionary rules.
It ceased as the phenomenon of outsider house came along, derived from a throwaway comment by Ben UFO. While quickly derided as a term, it—like tech house in the club’s inception—was a philosophy that simply disregarded rules and established norms. Outsider house was a panacea for anyone who had a bunch of 2007-era minimal—that sounds like a game of table tennis played with a hexagonal ball—languishing in a dark corner of a hard drive. Genre, artist and label quickly became unimportant and simply good music was once again at the forefront. And then Craig made another mix for fabric.
“The Nothing Special” quickly encapsulated the freedom had been increasingly stifled, with new and old sat side by side in a fashion where you would actually be hard pressed to pin the correct year on any individual track. With the prophetic nature of Craig’s mixes in mind, it will intrigue rather than surprise to know that he has provided an uncompromising session of electro and Sheffield bleep for fabric100.
Do note that this isn’t a simple nod of acknowledgement towards a current trend. His Get Lost mix for Crosstown Rebels in 2014 often flirted with fizzing electro passages that wove together threads of earthen house and fever dream techno. fabric15’s second disc—the only other entry in the series to feature multiple CDs—was an unexpected and delightful encore to the groundbreaking entree.
With Sheffield’s Central Processing Unit, Jerome Hill’s Super Rhythm Trax and Dutch imprint Shipwrec enjoying their highest profile to date, it is unsurprising to see them represented alongside established names such as Andrew Weatherall and DMX Krew. Craig’s take on electro is rubbery and funky rather than the taut experience you might be expecting. Without a doubt, it is delectable shift in gear halfway through that will set your eyeballs spinning, with cascading organs of Reade Truth ‘Where Has The Love Gone‘ in particular being an outstanding crescendo. The mix juxtaposes the straighter edged sessions from Terry and Keith, and provides a much needed change of texture in what could be a bit of an endurance listening session.
Appropriately, it then falls to Reilly to close out the mix series in its current form. This is a man who—through dismay at the way the scene was developing—hung up his career to dedicate years to finding a venue, disregarded norms in terms of line-up and ethos, donned a bulletproof vest to defy the London gangs wanting to run free through the club, and who came out swinging when the club shut down and under terminal threat from the council.
When presented with a blank sheet to draw upon, Keith once again goes against expectations by delivering a front room session—eleven tracks that you could imagine propped up on their diagonal inside a record box, mixed end to end in traditional mixtape fashion. There is no over-thinking or over-engineering here—a pitfall that some established big hitters have fallen into in the fabric mix past—just a clubby shuffle that isn’t a million miles away from my own hazy memories of Charterhouse Street in the venue’s first year.
In terms of style, Reilly is well aligned with the Crosstown Rebels vibe—smooth, percussive tracks that are deep and hypnotic. While there are a couple of leading beat alignment issues here and there, you find yourself absolutely allowing of it after being softened up by Craig and Terry’s opening salvo. As the mix progresses, there is a tangibly darker swerve into the same post-progressive house waters that fabric was renowned in its earliest years, bringing with it fond memories 4am reunions between temporarily lost friends.
As such, the combination of the trio is fitting. After Sasha—someone who is arguably one of the finest creators of the mix CD format—and the out-of-the-blue curveball entry from Kode9 and Burial both provided talking points in terms of a series climax, the decks were cleared for some straight up, no fuss mixes.
Also, the business-as-usual tone doesn’t imbue a sense of finality, another key point since the series is fully expected to continue in an alternative form in the future. The eagle eyed amongst us will have noted fabric quietly slipping unmixed versions of the Sasha and Tale Of Us mixes onto Spotify, and vinyl companion sets have also surfaced in recent times, noting the shifting demands of the physical purchaser.
Much has been made of the gradual decline of the physical mix CD. While this year has seen the likes Will Saul’s ‘Inside Out‘ series launch with its “commissioned tracks only” concept and the incredibly on form return of the Balance behemoth, this only comes off the back of a frankly dismal showing in 2017.
While this may be a sentiment that some of you may take umbrage to, Aidan Hanratty posed quite the counter when he asked the question, “Do you remember the last mix CD you bought?” in this excellent dissection of the state of the commercial mix in 2014. As a staunch defender of the format at that point in time, those nine words triggered a moment of clarity. The mix being burnt to CD isn’t the defining fact here, it is simply that it is expressed in the first place.
Over the last seventeen years, there has been no greater source of expression than fabric and FABRICLIVE accompanying each month torn off the calendar. So we can move forward with confidence that wherever the series goes from here, it will be as varied and memorable as it ever was. With that in mind, it is time to raise a glass to the past and look to the future.
fabric100 is out now, order a CD or digital copy from fabric.
1. Monolake – Nmos [Imbalance Computer Music]
2. Alphacom – Journal Square [NNY Records]
3. Solar X Brother Nebula – S.I.S. (Savile’s Jetset Radio Remix) [Legwork Records]
4. Setaoc Mass – Flying Buttress [Figure]
5. D. Ball – Transition [Ourtime Music]
6. Larry McCormick – Ride Low [Shipwrec]
7. Simulant – New Machines [Scopex]
8. The Woodleigh Research Facility – The Question Oak [Rotters Golf Club]
9. Rutherford – Pseudo Judo [Talking Machines]
10. Reedale Rise – Lucid Flow [Where We Met]
11. Craig Richards – My Friend Is Losing His Mind [The Nothing Special]
12. Fred und Luna – Monotonikum [Optimo Music]
13. Nancy Noise – Azizi’s Dance (Andrew Weatherall Remix 1) [Beyond Paradise Recordings]
14. Reade Truth – Where Has Love Gone [Cartulis Music]
15. Simon Haydo – Obey? [Hivern Discs]
16. DMX Krew – Bush Baby Bug Eyes [Breakin’ Records]
17. Detromental – Rewind [Central Processing Unit]
18. Mike Ash – The Fizz [Super Rhythm Trax]
19. Vectorvision vs Convextion – Zy Clone [Legwork Records]
20. Orgue Electronique – Suck Seed [Creme Organization]
21. Patrick Di Stefano & Luca Doobie – Get Through (Inxec Remix) [OFF Spin]
22. Jamie Fairley – Round ‘n’ Round [1trax]
23. Jose Vizcaino – Vicious Vision [Kinetic Groove]
24. Joeski – Cross Over (feat. Jesante) [Viva Recordings]
25. Audiojack – Turya [Crosstown Rebels]
26. Gel Abril – Carpet Sneak [mobilee records]
27. Mauri Fly – Red Tribal ( Silvano Del Gado Remix) [Stereophonic]
28. Blue Wig – No Ignorance (Part 1) [Eye 4 Sound]
29. Pure Science – The Way We Use To [Pure Science Communications]
30. Argy – Love Dose [Poker Flat Recordings]
31. Kevin Yost – Dancer Dancer [mobilee records]
32. Andre Salmon – Where Is The Salmon [Family Matters Records]
33. Francesco Robustelli – After Midnight [Dogmatik Records]
34. Jaded & James Petrou – Toni’s Pain (INXEC’s Morphine mashup) [Beef Records]
35. Terry Francis – Wipeout [Eye 4 Sound]
36. Tiefschwartz – Oberton [Souvenir]
37. Terry Francis – Emotional Blackmail [Eye 4 Sound]
38. Funtopia feat. Jimi Polo – Do You Wanna Know (Club Mix) [Two Tribes]
39. Creep Show – Safe and Sound [Bella Union]
40. Vondelpark – California Analog Dream (Robag’s Moppa Habax NB) [R&S Records]
41. Alex Attias Presents Mustang – Finding Who We Are (feat. Colonel Red) (Quarion Dub) [Compost Records]
42. SIOPIS – Really Love Ya [Get Physical Music]
43. Taube – Belle La Vie [Taube]
44. Low Deep T – Casablanca [cut&play Records]
45. Eddie Richards & Gideon Jackson – Biscuit Barrel Blues [London Housing Benefit]
46. Eddie Richards – Droids [Plastic City]
47. Rancido – Devil’s Den [Connaisseur Recordings]
48. Hanna Haïs feat. Sandra Nankoma – Mwala Wei’ka (Original Mix) [Open Bar Music]
49. Hyenah – Tale Of The Dirt feat. Aquarius Heaven (Rampa Remix) [Freerange Records]
50. Kollektiv Turmstrasse – Ordinary (Mick Rubins Deep) [Musik Gewinnt Freunde]
Discover more about fabric Records on Inverted Audio.