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Ivan Smagghe / Death in Vegas - Fabric 23 / FabricLive 23

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Artist: Ivan Smagghe / Death in Vegas

Album: Fabric 23 / FabricLive 23

Label: Fabric

Review date: Nov. 22, 2005

Fabric mixes are reliable: a notable in bold type, sanding off the rough edges of a live set, the distillation of certain aspects of a DJ’s aesthetic… (Think of recent turns from Michael Mayer or Andrew Weatherall.) However, when my middle finger wavered over the order button and then swiftly retracted when confronted with mixes from Diplo and Carl Craig, I wondered whether the Fabric Corporation had become too dependable, a little too staid and predictable, too comfortable with its curatorial role.

There is certainly some incongruity between tales of Fabric’s up-for-it club nights and the reserved, almost baleful tenor of these recent mixes by Ivan Smagghe and Death in Vegas. French producer/DJ Ivan Smagghe is one of the ‘right choices’ for our moment. He’s riding a crest of infamy thanks to his DJ sets, his volley of mix discs (Death Disco, Suck My Deck, How To Kill The DJ Part 1), his productions with Arnaud Rebotini in Black Strobe and Marc Collin as Volga Select, and his Two Fairlight Bitches remixes with Ewan Pearson. Fabric23 is an oppressive disc, electrohouse caught in monochrome, occasionally breaking out into a steely, gunmetal grey palette. Synths sound like fluorescent lights in constant spasm; on Roman Flügel’s remix of Audion’s “Just Fucking,” the sounds glare and contract like a strobe losing its mind. Some tracks hint at the pendulous, orb-like sounds of ‘ketamine house’ subjugated by the dark tone of the mix, as though a blanket of thick dirty smog is smothering the entire set. Other tracks hint at portals out of the muck: Ada’s mix of Booka Shade’s “Vertigo Vs Cha!” dances on a hot tin roof, its needlepoint phrases squirming with a strange disassociated delight, and Smagghe’s surprise drop of The Kills’ “No Wow” midway through the set finally makes the case for that duo’s post-Royal Trux dirt-rock.

Death In Vegas’ FabricLive23 is similarly wintry and biting: those expecting the glum rock of DIV’s own records only score one part of the equation here. Richard Fearless’ mix feels somehow incapacitated, unable to shrug the black mood from its head. FabricLive23 is a good quick grab at some of the skeins that weave through dance music now - dashes of minimal techno, electrohouse, acid, a tip of the hat to history via Cybotron’s “Alleys of Your Mind” - but the disc reaches its peak with Mathew Jonson’s dual plateaux, “Typerope” and “Marionette”. The latter tips the disc onto a wobbly axis (note: a good thing), with Alex Smoke’s “Neds” and Wighnomy Bros’ bipolar, rubbernecked “Pele Bloss.” Surprised that Fearless pulled off such a consistently great mix? Weirder things have happened, though I am surprised he didn’t pull on his rock boots for at least a short stretch. Looks like Smagghe and Fearless are holding court in each other’s backyards.

By Jon Dale

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