Shed, Pole, and MartynEdit this event
On a good night, with the right kind of music, Fabric’s Room One may well have the finest club sound I’ve ever encountered. The system is tweaked to absolute perfection, and the room’s physical dimensions serve to enhance it further, resulting in an environment that’s almost overwhelmingly loud but never sacrifices even a shard of its clarity. This evening is definitely one of those good nights: the wide open spaces that characterise each artist’s music sound precision engineered to match the club itself. None of your abrasive, overdriven bass sounds here, thank you very much, just shimmering fragments of synth and cavernous, dub-infused sub-bass. Berlin through and through, for the most part, and all the better for it.
There’s an awful lot of Ableton in Fabric tonight. The majority of sets we witness are live performances, which prove to be enjoyable shifts away from the usual club DJ fodder, and also see a greater proportion of the evening given to each producer’s own music. On the evidence of Shed’s quite staggering set within the cavernous spaces of Room Two that’s entirely a good thing; the often thrown around assertions that he’s currently the ‘finest techno producer in the world’ hold even more water when his shattered beats operate at that sort of volume. Particularly impressive is one synth-heavy track towards the end of his set, which pulls off the contradictory trick of remaining almost the same throughout whilst simultaneously ascending ever-higher, dragging the sizeable crowd towards the roof with it. Towards the evening’s end, Deadbeat’s take on a similar sound is a headier but no less physical experience, the one-two punch of ‘Grounation (Berghain Drum Jack)’ into an on-the-fly remix of Pinch’s dubstep classic ‘Get Up’ injecting a sudden burst of energy into an increasingly knackered group of 6am dancers.
Early on, Pole’s grainy dub techno goes head-to-head with an upfront DJ set from Martyn, forcing a pretty tough choice. The decision to stick with the latter for the most part seems to be both a blessing and a curse. While Martyn’s set is the only real point in the evening when the second room’s pulse diverts from straight four-to-the-floor, taking in funky and broken beat from the likes of Altered Natives and Lil Silva, as well as a seriously unexpected appearance of a stripped-back refix of Daft Punk’s ‘Technologic’, the 15 minutes or so we catch of Pole are tantalising. Again, Room One proves to be the ideal environment for his own glitchy take on techno, and the deep threads of synth that peel away from its kickdrum chassis lap at the edges of the room and the crowd like tongues of St. Elmo’s Fire.
Once again though, the evening belongs to Sam Shackleton. All of the first room’s definitive traits come into play during the hour he’s onstage, and its remarkably lucid sound allows each individual element to occupy its own unique space within the mix. Shackleton’s recreation of his music live eschews the typical ‘play one track after the other’ approach and instead explores the hallucinogenic properties of depth, adding layer upon layer of rhythm and dessicated melody to build towering monoliths of sound. In less well-suited environments it can come across as a little muddy, the sheer intricacy of his drum patterns partially lost in a spaced out haze, but this evening the total effect couldn’t be clearer. So it’s easy to instantly recognise the sparse central motif of ‘Hamas Rule’ as it emerges from behind a wall of drum-circle percussion before bursting into life with a distinctive wisp of arabesque melody. The same is true of his Three EPs material, which looms into the foreground and unleashes wave after wave of devastating sub-bass, cutting deep furrows through the crowd.
For the most part though, his performance tonight is less reminiscent of Three EPs, with its softly meditative sheen, and far more evocative of his early Skull Disco material, all grit, grime and palpable sadness. That doesn’t stop it being compulsively danceable though: the long interludes between recognisable tracks are filled with intense blasts of pure rhythm, warm gusts of bass and the muted babbling of madmen just out of sight, and take great joy in subverting dance music’s euphoric communion. What’s left is an inversion, all introspection – with eyes closed it takes on an entirely personal bent – and detached individuality. It’s certainly a potent reminder that Shackleton is one of the most unique and fearsome producers currently working in electronic music, and at only an hour in length his set feels almost painfully short.
We exit Fabric’s pitch black confines at around seven am, blinking awkwardly in the blazing sunlight of a day you’d never realise had dawned.
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