- As insular and unfriendly as it can seem to outsiders, drum & bass isn't always friendly to its insiders either. Fractured into about a million sub-genres which don't exactly get along, it can be a tough little world. Those who like the poppy bent of Hospital might not jive with the plink-plonky "minimal" strains, who in turn might be decried by the roaring midrange of modern techstep. It's not always easy to find a way to bring it all together; a shame given the vibrant diversity that still exists across the full spectrum of drum & bass. One of the key agents in this quest has been Kasra's aptly named Critical Recordings, awarded RA's Label of the month last year for its balance of striking experimentalism with deadly functionality. The London label head has been tapped to mix the latest in the Fabriclive series, presenting the most exciting take on the genre since Instra:mental and dBridge's fiftieth instalment in 2010.
Fabriclive.62 is heavy on material from his own label, along with DJ Friction's like-minded Shogun Audio. The result is a smart mix of modern styles that deals in minimal precision without losing the keen razor's edge that defines Kasra and his Critical label. Beginning with a brooding Alix Perez remix of Rockwell's unforgettable "Underpass," things slowly perk up with a series of microscopic drum neuroses from the likes of Foreign Concept, Dub Phizix and Hybris, showing off a promising new wave of producers from the label. Kasra is stingy with the aggression, only letting it in at key points: even Noisia's early appearance with "Micro Organism" feels unbearably tense, like it's about to rupture but nonetheless trapped by Kasra's steady mixing hand.
When those corrosive basslines do start pummeling through the mix, they're a force to be reckoned with. Fabriclive.62's midsection is a thrilling ride through 170MPH drum & bass, from Kasra & Enei's menacing "So Real" through to Bladerunner's Vietnam war flashback "Back To The Jungle VIP." Things settle down to a simmer briefly (thanks to Icicle's techno-edged beats) before exploding back to life with June Miller & Proxima's "Killswitch Engage." The mix careens to a startling, sterling finish with Stray's "Timbre VIP." It might seem a bit odd to pin an entire mix's value on its closing moments, but something about the way the brutally time-stretched breaks in "Timbre VIP" rip a hole right through the mix (and the spacetime continuum) is eminently satisfying, a long-delayed climax of punishing energy after over an hour of edging and rising. If you weren't convinced up until this point, this'll grab you by the throat and show you what's what.
The real shame about Fabriclive.62 is that its audience is probably going to be limited to those drum & bass denizens already familiar with Kasra and his label, but the mix here presents such a varied view of the genre that it's worth the time of both neophytes and drum & bass dismissers. Where Autonomic revealed the genre's potential gentility and Goldie proudly displayed its melodic streak, Kasra shows how far drum & bass can be stretched into realms resembling dubstep, techno and jungle, and comes out in the end with a prismatic representation of the genre. Drum & bass can reflect so many colours, moods and ideas depending on the angle you look at it from, but here it's all one, cohesive piece.
01. Rockwell - Underpass (Alix Perez VIP)
02. Foreign Concept - Detuned Souls
03. Dub Phizix - Handmade
04. Phace & Noisia - Micro Organism
05. Hybris - The Cleaner VIP
06. Sabre, Stray & Halogenix - Oblique VIP feat. Frank Carter III
07. Mortem - Uprising
08. Alix Perez - Myriads (Jubei Remix)
09. Break - Soundwaves
10. Judda - Pressure Plate VIP
11. Dub Phizix - Codec
12. Hybris - Make My Drink
13. Kasra & Enei - So Real
14. Enei - Machines
15. Enei & MC Drs - Obsession (Foreign Concept Remix)
16. Bladerunner - Back To The Jungle VIP
17. SPY - New Beginning VIP
18. Noisia & Phace - MPD
19. Foreign Concept - Mob Justice (Enei Remix)
20. Commix - Version
21. Klute - We R The Ones (Ulterior Motive Remix)
22. Xtrah - Regain Control
23. Icicle & Rockwell - Resources
24. June Miller & Proxima - Killswitch Engage
25. MC Drs - Count To Ten feat. Enei
26. Mark System - Pursuit
27. Mikal & Break - Play This Game
28. Enei & Riya - No Fear (Spectrasoul Remix)
29. Stray - Timbre VIP