Another month means another release from Fabric, the venerable London club and record label. The mix series began in 2001 and features electronic music DJs from all across the spectrum: New York disco revivalists, London dubsteppers, Chilean minimal techno stars. With over 40 Fabric releases so far, and as many Fabriclive mixes, it’s easy for DJs to get lost in the talent pool. But Fabric 44 is not just another Fabric release.
In 20 tracks and a little over an hour, Fabric 44 stretches the melodic bounds of techno. Alas, speaking on this subject, John Tejada said, "I wanted the whole track selection to turn into one piece of music: a techno-classical piece that has movements and moods from start to finish."
The allusions to classical music are fitting for Tejada, who was born in Vienna to a composer and an opera singer. On this heavily edited mix, the DJ becomes a conductor, stitching together new and old, some Berlin, some Detroit, even some acid and progressive house. The product is a seamless piece of music that is more anthem than mix.
Fabric 44 takes time to warm up. In the middle of the second track, "Kamm," by Pigon, the drums fall out, and all that remains is soft ambient synths. When the beat comes galloping back, it propels the mix to the end. Tracks four through six are the work of a beatblending genius. The high-pitched sirens and pyrotechnics of Donnacha Costello’s "Olive B" eventually give way to a ruthless four-to-the-floor workout on "Wax10001." At this point, crowds in a Berlin warehouse are getting sweaty, and the rest of us can’t stop jumping around our living rooms. Then, the high-hats bleed into a tightly wound vocal stitch on Nekes’ "Cristal." The frenetic vocal is the beat’s backbone and a tease that could go on indefinitely.
John Tejada is an L.A.-based DJ, label owner, and inexhaustible producer. He produced seven of the 20 tracks on Fabric 44, most of them with his own Palette label. He’s also a techno historian, and reaches back to early ’90s on Orbital’s "Fahrenheit 303." The acid homage to the Roland 303 comes as a nice surprise at a time when many DJs seem to have forgotten anything pre-minimal.
Most DJs can beatmatch and select the perfect tracks, but Tejada stands out in his ability to evoke narrative. For example, whereas the progressive house track "Candy" by Spooky would feel trite on most techno releases, Tejada’s heavily layered edit brings the mix a fragile, nostalgic mood as it winds down.
The only complaint I have with Fabric 44 is that with so much invested in the rhythm and melody, there’s not much room for closure. Still, that’s a small price to pay for an album that will have us all remembering 44 a special number in Fabric’s history.