Richie Hawtin and Slam at Fabric London - 17 Sept 05

Since its conception Fabric has established itself as a truly underground club with an international reputation. Its sustained popularity and global following can be attributed in part to Fabric's successful CD series initiative and the intelligent business plan that has placed the club steps ahead of most other contenders in the capital and beyond. However, Fabric has succeeded in increasing its commercial weight without losing the underground edge thanks to an upfront and fresh musical direction and a well-connected booking policy.

Compare the current listings with those from say two years ago and you will see a transition in direction that is closely linked to the current trends in dance music. For example DJ's and artists associated with the new takes on minimalism and electro are now popular additions (for example Ricardo Villalobos, Damian Lazarus and Dan Ghenacia) whilst DJ's such as Jon Marsh and Tony Humphries who are allied more to the deeper house sound are currently overlooked. It can be argued that, rather than responding to current movements, Fabric has in fact been a pivotal mechanism in the growth of genres such as minimalism, with Craig Richards in particular pioneering this sound to an absorbing audience on a weekly basis.

On a minimal tip you would do well to get a higher profile booking that the technological innovator is Richie Hawtin. And judging by the buzz and anticipation surrounding his performance it is clear that the Canadian born DJ and producer is the nights star attraction. That said Fabric would not be Fabric without the action in Room 2, and tonight's line up is reassuringly Fabric of old with perhaps one of the best and understated resident DJ's in the UK - Terry Francis, supported by a live set from Pure Science and a 5 hr set from the legendary Slam. The partnership of Stuart McMillan and Orde Meikle has become synonymous with the underground house and techno scene around the globe thanks to their era defining label Soma, 3 highly acclaimed artists albums and an international DJ schedule that has seen them develop reputations as world class DJ's. Slam have influenced and continue to shape their genre, arguably as much as the Detroit luminaries that came before them. Tonight's set opens the second room and acts as an able pre-cursor to their forthcoming mix project 'Nightdrive' that is due out in October. Playing from 10 until 3 both DJ's set about creating one of the best sets to ever shake the walls of Fabric, using laptops, decks and effects. The growth in technology in the DJ booth has undeniably contributed to the art of DJ-ing over the last couple of years and this is evident this evening. That said, new techniques still need to be supported by impeccable track selection and a responsive relationship with the crowd and these qualities have always been the main components of a Slam DJ set over the years. The mood started suitably deep, mellow and rich for the first hour as strong bass lines and melodies were skilfully bought in and out of the mix. As the crowd began to fill out the pace was increased and the tracks became more electronic and quirky with bleeps and riffs dominating the sound waves. Dropping the excellent Phil Kieran remix of Sons of Slough's 'Real People' on Tortured Records offshoot Electrix, it was clear that Slam were ready to step up to the requirements of the dancefloor. Sensing that they were not playing the final set of the evening, both DJ's resisted the temptation to play too much full on techno and as a result the mix expertly jumped from house to techno with a fluidity that rarely faded. At 3 am Slam handed over to Pure Science and, judging by the crowd reaction throughout the final section of their performance, the full capacity second room had probably just witnessed one of the technically most astute and well sequenced sets of the clubbing calendar. Unfortunately this fact meant that no other DJ playing before 3 am is covered in this particular review!

Back in Room 1 the atmosphere was quickly filling with anticipation as the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd were being treated to the deep sounds of the Minus label. The accomplished Kookie Scientist (who appeared to have borrowed a hat from Boy George for the night) finished his minimal but groove led live set to a good reception, but it was pretty clear that the energy in the main room had become electrified with the arrival of Mr Hawtin who mingled briefly with the crowd before entering the DJ box. Getting close to the main booth was a difficult task (as was moving in general) with everyone wanting to get a glimpse of perhaps one of the most advanced DJ's in current circulation. Working off at least 2 laptops, the installation Xone: 92, decks and a CDJ, Richie Hawtin began his set with a beat less intro that added to the swelling expectation. Following his excellent closing set at the Sonar festival earlier in the year it promised to be a very special 3 and half hours.

As the first slow, deep and overwhelming bass line dropped in over the minimal hum the stage looked set for another defining performance, with the dancefloor showing its appreciation. However, the subsequent action threw up various surprises, many of which were not particularly impressive. Only 3 tracks in and following an awful mix Richie Hawtin played Johnny Fiasco's Max Renn project track 'Acid Express' and although this is not a bad track it did not sit well among the slow minimalist introduction and the majority of the dancefloor had to quickly readjust to the new direction. It was a shock to hear Hawtin play this record, but it was more shocking to hear him play it badly. If a number of the Fabric crowd had been stunned by the shaky start, by 7 am they would have been well accustomed to the technical problems that shaped his set. At one point the DJ actually picked up and replaced the needle a few bars back on the main mix record to allow more time to bring in the next track. Luckily by this junction most of the dancefloor were too immersed in the music to worry about the technicalities of mixing.

Despite all this Richie Hawtin is considered to be one of the best DJ's on the planet for a reason and he did demonstrated why on many occasions. Via numerous re-interpretations and re-arrangements of stutter funk minimal tracks and drum loops he constantly built irresistible and unstoppable grooves and rhythms, and the energy and dedication of the main room punters proved that he was generally hitting the right note. The last hour, as ever, was by far the best and rewarded everyone who managed to stay until the end. Dropping new and classic techno tracks side-by-side Mr Hawtin closed in excellent form, and in the process erased most of the bad memories that came before.

Words: Paul Pritchard - pritchard.p [at] gmail.com
Photos: Tom Stapley - Fabric

Richie Hawtin and Slam at Fabric London - 17 Sept 05
PUBLISHED

October 4, 2005 at 10:54 PM CEST

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