When I interviewed Michael this summer in Cologne's Kompakt offices, I asked him what his favorite venue of the moment was. Without skipping a beat, he told me -- (here's another cute photo I took, just cuz) --
"Fabric." His reason: the SOUND. The decks, the clear-as-a-bell acoustics, the bass response...all those technical things that sadly seem like an afterthought at most New York venues, but make all the difference in the world with this kind of music. Anyway, his description made me even more psyched to check the place out than I was already.
So last week I found myself in London, and while I was there, I visited Fabric. The lineup: Ricardo Villalobos, Magda, and Richie Hawtin in the main room and Basteroid and Ivan Smagghe in the second room. My friends and I got there at around 11. When I got in the door, my jaw literally dropped. This was the biggest space I had seen in, well, forever. Here's a snapshot of the backs of peoples' heads...er I mean the main room:
It's hard to tell the scale of the place from the teensy photo, but believe me--it was pretty damn big. The second room was the size of the main space at Volume. Fabric's an intriguing maze when you get in, with multiple rooms and multiple levels and big cavernous hallways and wacky unigender restrooms wallpapered in mirror after mirror after mirror (dingy NYC venues take note: we girls (and boys too I'm guessing) like full-length mirrors!) It all felt very hyperfuturistic--stadium-grade moving lights, tons of lasers--but then there was the occasional odd reminder of the outside world, like a tangled Animal Collectivey tree branch encased in Plexiglas hanging in the stairwell, for no particular reason at all.
Magda started things up in the main room, playing it minimal and bangin' without ever being dry or dull. Which is a real talent, I gotta say. (Release a mix CD, Magda! You're great!) Then Villalobos and Hawtin took turns at the decks from 1 to...well, 3 pm the next day, from what I heard later. When I saw those two play an outdoor gig in Cologne, it was fun but a little too clicky and dry for my tastes. I figured tonight would be an entirely different experience, and I was right.
What the hell is that, you ask? I dunno!
The real wild cards of the night, in my estimation, were Villalobos and Smagghe. Anything could happen with those two, and I couldn't wait to see what they were going to throw at us. Villalobos' new album--strangely swampy, rhythmically nutty, very intriguing/inventive--is one of my favorite records of 2004.
The crowd at Fabric was, all things considered, pretty great. There were thousands of people. The usual hipster contingent was in full effect, but there were also tons of random people, and a bunch of dudes who seemed like they'd be baseball-cap-wearing jocks if they were in the US. But they were dancing and having a good time, and everyone seemed totally wrecked, which definitely added to the vibe. The kids I spotted in the restroom were drinking water straight out of the sink faucets and exchanging meaningful glances. Awww!
This is Basteroid. I really dig the label he's a part of--Areal--but his live set didn't really move me. He had his moments, but I drifted back to the main room to see Hawtin and Villalobos, who were just starting to tear it up. Then back to the second room, where Smagghe had taken over, playing one of the most blistering sets I've ever heard in my life. Smagghe is half of the unstoppable Black Strobe, and part of the reason I luv Smagghe is because he does veer a bit too far into Wax Traxy goth-schlock at times. The Black Strobe remix of Alter Ego's 'Rocker', for instance, is awesome, and part of the reason it's awesome is because parts of it sound like my imagined techno soundtrack for Zelda II (8-bit Nintendo stylee) or the nighttime scenes in Castlevania (before the morning sun vanquishes the horrible night ho ho). Adding to the scary FX was that there was a gigantic spinning green laser shooting out of the DJ booth (looks blue in the photo for some reason) and fog machines, which worked this mad optical illusion that made you feel like you were being literally sucked into Ivan Smagghe's unrelentingly cold gothic heart! Feeeeeeeeeel the creepy vibe!
Every track Smagghe threw out felt perfect, anthemic. There were definite dark, freaky undertones to a lot of it, something I think this whole scene could use more of (a lot of this stuff seems a little too sweetness and light at times doesn't it?) One of the high points was 'Heiden', which dropped at around 6. I totally underrated it cuz it's track 3 on the new Mayer album, and next to the absolute monster that is track 4 ('Neue Luthersche Fraktur') it doesn't seem to compare. But 'Heiden' is a monster too, and through the Fabric speakers, it sounded revelatory, every crystal-clear note shinging through the laser and fog-tinted air.
Smagghe ended triumphantly, the cool green death-ray laser turned off, and we headed back to see what Villalobos was up to in the main room. Villalobos was completely in his own head. I don't have a clue of what's going on inside Villalobos' head, and I have a goddamn degree in cognitive neurobiology from M.I.T. The dude looked totally out of it, but it didn't seem to impact his mixing skills in the slightest. Most of the stuff Villalobos was playing was completely engrossing, but it sounded like nothing I had ever heard before, and I'm at a loss to find the words to describe it right now. When we finally left, he was playing something that sounded like what I can best describe as childrens' music from space--all pretty bells and gentle chimes and train whistles, with this weird rocking beat underpinning it.
So, Fabric. Thank you and good night!