In hindsight, it was obvious right from the first click of play: the Apollo 11 astronaut communications that emerges from the ambient washes of Fabric 94‘s opening track are wholly reminiscent of the “Astronauts report: it feels good” sample made famous by the likes of The Orb and Banco De Gaia.
Listen to Fabric 94 once and we might remark that it’s a DJ mix for the lounge room, not the dance floor. We note over an hour of vocal free electronica (that at various points in the past twenty five years has also been called IDM and ambient techno), seamlessly mixed by Panorama Bar resident DJ Steffi.
Listen to Fabric 94 a second time and it’s likely that the polyrhythmic nature of at least half of its fifteen cuts will work their way to the surface. Give it a third run and its numerous cool, minor-chord-dominant melodies will work their way under your skin. Undoubtedly, this is an album that rewards repeated listens.
Steffi’s choices aren’t as robust as those found on, say, Scuba’s Fabric 90 or as endlessly restless as those stitched together by Nina Kraviz for Fabric 91.
However, to say that Steffi has mixed this latest instalment in Fabric’s DJ mix series is to underplay her role as album curator. The tracks found here weren’t pulled together, mixed and then licensed by the label. According to the Fabric website, “Steffi has chosen to commission all the tracks exclusively for fabric 94. The curated group of close friends and collaborators were guided to produce tracks “with a certain mindset” which Steffi then moulded and wove together.”
Here’s the compete tracklisting:
01. L.u.c.a. – Echo 1
02. Voiski – Sound Of Distance
03. STFSHD – 1.5
04. Unbalance – Freedom
05. Doms & Deykers – No Life On The Surface
06. Answer Code Request – Forking Path
07. Dexter – 66
08. 214 – Sound Moments
09. Mesak – Commonaukko
10. Duplex – Voidfiller
11. Late Night Approach – Poison Valley
12. UAS – World Gets Crazy
13. Afik Naim – Saturniidae
14. Dexter & Virginia – Off The Beat
15. Privacy – Broke
Steffi also runs the Dolly label and has released these same tracks plus two bonus buts, unmixed, across four pieces of vinyl, as Dollydeluxe 1 – 4. More details here.
Listening to all four companion EPs as a single album (Tidal here, Spotify here) is, for this ambient techno / IDM / electronica fan, an even more enjoyable listening experience. Each track cut from its DJ mix context, we get to hear it build and fall away again. The sound layering is more readily discerned, especially when heard via a nice pair of headphones or a half-decent pair of loudspeakers.
In Doms & Deykers “No Life On The Surface” we hear the ghost of mid-90s Autechre. So too in 214’s “Sound Moments”. Elsewhere, Mesak’s “Commonaukko” channels Electro Soma-era B12 and Voiski’s “Sound of Distance” wouldn’t have sounded too out of place on Speedy J’s Ginger. And if you’d told me Late Night Approach’s “Poison Valley” was a long lost Plaid cut recorded under a pseudonym, I wouldn’t disbelieve you.
In other words, in this Dollydeluxe collection we hear, in part, Warp’s Artificial Intelligence series reinvented for the 21st Century. Fabric 94? More like Fabric 1994. Seriously heady stuff.