Kode9 & Burial FabricLive 100 Fabric
It isn’t often that a mix CD sends you scurrying back to the library to find a yellowing and sun-warped copy of Samuel Johnson’s The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia, but then again it isn’t every day that a mix by Kode9 and Burial hits the shelves. With this final roll of the FabricLive dice, the artists – one, head of the boundary-pushing label Hyperdub and the other, electronic music’s most mythologised figure – have offered listeners everything. The result is something easier to admire than to love, a mix that’s more intriguing than it is entertaining.
Expectation, anticipation, hope – these are the things which ultimately cause us to feel that life is unjust. Our needs are rarely met, let alone our wants. The second we imbue anything, or anyone, with desire we are setting ourselves up for a fall. This, Johnson’s eponymous prince learns, is simply the way of the world. It cannot, and will not change.
Our enjoyment of art and culture is always tinged with the anxiety of anticipation. We want to feel monumentally moved in front of a Rothko, or to walk out of a late-night screening of a Jean-Luc Godard film seeing everything anew. This need for the transformative experience is, in essence, why those of us who’ve taken to clubbing spend the bulk of our weekends shuffling around dark rooms in various states of disrepair: perhaps it is here, tonight, that the longed-for sense of total release will materialise. And then it doesn’t. So we do it all over again.
FabricLive 100 was never going to be the epoch-defining moment in musical history that even the most cynical of us sort of wanted it to be. The idea of it was too rich, too heavy with possibility, to ever find itself living and breathing in reality.
It isn’t that it’s technically messy, or unimaginative, but the scope of what the pair are trying to achieve leads them to hopping between subaqueous gqom, brash electroclash, skittering jungle, slippery footwork, and a few weighty slabs of nosebleed rave warehouse wreckers. It feels, and sounds, like a series of mini-mixes threaded through with the occasional slither of sodden ambience that Burial’s used as a sonic crutch for over a decade.
In this way, it implicitly asks the listener what they expect from a commercially released mix. Compared to other mixes in the Fabric franchise – Michael Mayer’s lush microhouse trip on Fabric 13, say, or the bludgeoning grime excursion that is Elijah & Skilliam’s FabricLive 75 – it feels skittery and slightly unsure of itself. Certainly, few mixes released this year have raised so many questions. Doesn’t this, though, more accurately reflect the kind of set you’d expect to hear Kode9 himself play out? Why didn’t the mutated, heavenly gospel-juke of TEDDMAN’S Baby become a global smash? Will Burial get a new sample set to play with soon? When did we decide that the mix was an exclusively linear experience? And why do we demand total cohesion at all costs?
FabriveLive 100 doesn’t answer many of these questions. But as a curtain call, it’s a brave one. Fabric has decided to let two of the most influential names in recent British music history do what they want for 75 minutes. What they’ve done is attempt to condense a few hours in a club, and a few decades of the culture around them, into a single disc that’ll be stuffed into the final batch of those iconic metal boxes. Considering the hype built around it, the result was always going to feel a little bit underwhelming. Maybe we only have ourselves to blame.