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Fabric Vol. 11 (Swayzak)

Wednesday, Jul 23 2003
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Once upon a time -- just after disco, during the early '80s -- house music emerged to tell stories. Before it became the party-hearty soundtrack for the bridge-and-tunnel gentry of the Chicago and New York clubs, house, as played by DJs like Frankie Knuckles and Ron Hardy, had a certain intelligence to it. It folded elements like synth pop, dub reggae, techno, and jazz into its insistent 4/4 beat. Furthermore, those DJs' mix-soundtracks told the story of a durable, trend-hardened, and opaque late-night club lifestyle. Like most over-30 British DJs, James Taylor and David Brown -- who spin together as Swayzak -- adore the narrative spirit of those mixes, and the pair's contribution to the London club Fabric's mix series uses current house tunes like sentences to spin a compelling urban yarn.

Offering up an impressively diverse approach to house music's 120-beats-per-minute regimen, Swayzak seems to chronicle a hipster's club night out in this mix. The initial clacking, mechano-minimalist tech-house by Akufen, Konrad Black, and Luomo approximates car or bus sounds driving through the quiet night before sending its passengers off through the club's door. Inside, it's a crowd of distinct characters: There's the longing lounge singer Louie Austen, mixed by Herbert; the numb club girl in Felix Da Housecat's "What Does It Feel Like"; the floating Rasta crooning over Rockers Hi-Fi's dubby "Push Push"; and the anxious post-rock scenester 'fessing up over drum-machine-driven funk in LCD Soundsystem's "Losing My Edge." Finally, after a touch of tweaky early-a.m. tech-house, the dawn breaks on German duo Salz's deep remix of Thomas Dolby's melancholy 1981 hit "One of Our Submarines," as Dolby's cries of "Goodbye, empire" bring a chill against the morning sun. With its natural flow and flawless selection, Swayzak's mix offers up a potent document of a night in the life of a scene called house.

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Ron Nachmann

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