Nearly a year ago, this week’s mix wouldn’t have existed. At least not in its present state.
Last June, a patron died of a drug overdose at the London club Fabric. (The F is officially in lowercase, but this column prizes legibility.) Another did the same two months later. On August 15, the club was shut down indefinitely while its licensing status was reviewed. Three weeks later, on September 7, a local council ordered its license permanently revoked. “People entering the club were inadequately searched,” read the verdict. After 17 years, Fabric was, it seemed, no more.
The action sent shockwaves through the dance community. More than just a big room (it fits 2,500) or a fixture, Fabric’s decisive step away from London’s prevailing “superclub” styles of tacky sing-along house and whooshing trance in favor of a wide-ranging musical policy (tech-house, drum & bass, and downtempo were all in the mix from the beginning, and BBC Radio 1 legend John Peel was an early guest) altered the city’s nightlife, and in short order the world’s. In 2001, Fabric introduced a pair of alternating bimonthly mix-CD series, Fabric and FabricLive, which continue to this day, each one closing in on 100 volumes. Put simply, Fabric shaped modern music as decisively as any venue you can name.
The club’s owners, DJs, and fans rallied almost immediately. A bargain priced 111-track compilation, #savefabric (we’ll let that one lowercase slide) was issued as a fundraiser, and a Change.org petition to keep the place open received over 150,000 signatures. It worked -- on November 21, after agreeing to some infrastructural changes, Fabric reopened for business.
In addition to its two officially licensed series, Fabric has also issued a steady stream of live and promo sets on its SoundCloud page, typically by lesser-known DJs than those featured on the CDs. For example, on May 9, four days ahead of her Fabric appearance, the club uploaded a Fabric Promo Mix by Liverpool DJ-producer Or:la, a.k.a. Liverpool producer-DJ Orlagh Dooley, who’d made a splash under her birth name that’s accelerated since adopting the alias.
True to form for a club that made its name with high-toned, sharp-eared eclecticism, Or:la’s set spans so many styles it seems almost willful. Drag the cursor ahead every ten minutes and it’s like you’re hearing a half-dozen different mixes. Here, a samba-flavored groove; there, the sparkling tech-house with sweep-and-drag hi-hats of Hashman Deejay’s “Xssential-3.” Now an airy string backdrop to a thunking b-line; then the whapping snares and scrunched Kraftwerk-ese of Special Request’s “Redrum.” At the 50 mark, a cut-up hip-hop break over menacing canned strings; at 60, a filtered disco-funk track melting into the pealing plinks of Detroit electro legends Drexciya’s finale, “Andrean Sand Dunes.”
Laying it all out with little fuss and a lot of charm, Or:la lets the tracks guide her; she even slows things down occasionally, often a dance-floor no-no. It takes a lot of confidence to do that. Not to mention a club that gives its DJs room to let things breathe -- and even get a little weird.
Each Thursday, Michaelangelo Matos will spotlight a different DJ set -- often but not always new, sometimes tied to a local show but not necessarily -- and discuss its place in the overall sphere of dance music and pop.