Now in its 83rd edition, London superclub Fabric's influential live mix series has produced its fair share of landmark releases. And, to ruin the suspense for you, this is another one to add to the list.
Fabric's sticky floors have historically been better known to the feet of the capital's house and techno fans than its grime cohort, but in the past few years – spearheaded by the likes of Butterz and Tropical – names from the London-born scene's modern day hall of fame have been making regular appearances on the club's iconic posters. This mix goes some way to providing a physical embodiment of this still relatively new presence.
There's an obvious line to be drawn between this release and Caspa & Rusko's infamous FABRICLIVE.37 – released as it was at a time when dubstep was just beginning to be accepted as a genuinely viable 'club' genre, as grime might be considered to be now. However, while the dubstep duo sought to capture the singular energy and aesthetic of their genre's moment of explosion into popular clubland consciousness, Logan Sama, with his contribution, is attempting something a little grander. In bringing together artists responsible for shaping grime in its earliest incarnations with those now driving the scene forward, the mix – which also notably avoids any sense of historical chronology in its structure – manages to reflect the genre's history whilst being undeniably of its time.
Imagined as a stageshow or radio set featuring pretty much anyone who's anyone in grime – much like the legendary shows with which Logan signed off stints on Rinse FM and, more recently, Kiss – the mix is aimed, Logan says, at maintaining "the unique energy that we generate in live sets." That's a big reach and one that, unfortunately, proves too far a stretch here: the recording can't quite match the energy of the countless historic grime sets fans have collected over the years; and that's largely because it lacks the spontaneity and volatility (reloads, surprise appearances, new bars etc.) that make grime's radio and stage shows so visceral and exciting.
The pacing of the mix too suffers slightly at times as a result of trying to fit so many vocals onto each instrumental, rather than being able to mix in and out naturally and test the MCs' ability to spit over blends and catch drops. In this way, the result is closer to a mix of exclusive vocals (similar to Logan's 2008 'Oneaway Style' mixtape) than a live or radio set. But with that said, it's important to remember that this isn't a radio set and should be taken on its merits in transferring aspects of an existing, fan-favoured format to a different one – and one on which grime isn't (yet) particularly well or widely represented.
The tracklist is as much a sight as it is a sound to behold: across 24 instrumentals – the vast majority of which have been provided upfront or exclusive by a range of scene-founding producers such as Wiley and Jammer, golden years beatsmiths including Maniac and Davinche, and 2015 starlets like Trends and Mystry – a tally-busting 66 MCs ride without giving much that resembles a pause. Dullahbeatz' 'Final Stage' alone boasts 13 over the course of its six and a half minutes.
Beyond the numbers, it's pleasing to hear that there are very few, if any, duds on show: too often a near-perfect set can be all but ruined by a single, repeatedly lacklustre performer. There's no such energy-sapper here, but instead plenty of opportunities to discover a new favourite vocalist. Praiseworthy too is the way in which the mix has MCs from all eras (and to a lesser extent areas) rubbing shoulders around the mic, whether it be Kano sharing a figurative pop shield with SafOne or Jammz with Jamakabi.
The mixing itself is as tight as you'd expect from a man with so many years' experience behind the decks and, despite the aforementioned pacing issue, the finished article takes on a nice arc – no mean feat when it comes to a genre which can in the wrong hands so easily be reduced to a showreel of disconnected bangers. In all honesty though, FABRICLIVE.83 is impressive in so many other ways that there seems little point in dwelling on the nitty gritty of track transitions and – excuse us – "the journey" the listener is taken on. In this way, Logan Sama's achievement is all the greater in allowing his audience to immerse itself totally – get lost, if you will – in the music he's dedicated his career to demonstrating and documenting.
Words: Will Pritchard
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