- In December 2013, Resident Advisor called Midland a "DJ mix specialist," and with good reason. The UK artist, real name Harry Agius, is a self-confessed "obsessive" when it comes to the format, an approach that has paid off: in addition to stellar entries for FACT and RA, there was 2016's debut Essential Mix, which was voted the year's best. Fabriclive 94, a project Agius spent six months on given the "the added gravitas of [it] being a Fabric CD," continues this excellent form.
Agius, who likes conceptualising his mixes, says Fabriclive 94 represents "a night out and the emotions you experience within it." Here, "emotions" is shorthand for the ups and downs of going clubbing, the "times when you feel overwhelmed and disorientated" versus the moments "of total clarity and euphoria." He captures this heady see-saw of feelings by repeatedly pulling the rug out from under your feet, following big tracks with more stripped-back, contemplative ones.
This doesn't always work—it's hard not to feel a little deflated when the wonderfully dreamy vibe of Roman Flügel's "Warm And Dewy" dissipates into the snarly drums of Farah's "Lockhead." But when it does work, the effect is striking. Around the midway point, just as the mix is picking up steam, he brings in Mr Hazeltine's remix of Mannequin Lung's "City Lights," a deep, pumping house cut with stirring spoken-word vocals. It's one of those peak-time records that gels dance floors, so to follow it with Sugai Ken's "Mukashi," a slice of mind-bending ambience released last year on Lullabies For Insomniacs, might have been DJ suicide without the subtle transition and the incoming track's beauty. It's these peaks and troughs that give Fabriclive 94 its edge.
When he's on the road, Agius often jots down blends that worked well in his sets, even if he rarely revisits them. This passion for pinpointing those magical in-between moments, when two tunes fit together like hand in glove, comes through strongest in the mix's opening run. Take the way the tuneful whistles from Juju & Jordash's "Monday Mellow" bring light to the percussive clack of Jaures's "Silence (Before Birth)." Or how easily the subaquatic gurgles and skiting snares from Flügel's "Warm And Dewy" complement the entrancing synths from Leif's "Shoulders Back," arguably the mix's standout track (joint first with LFO's "Ultra Schall"). With each transition, you can tell Agius has taken the time to get the stitching just right, which allows him to cover a broad range of sounds and textures without derailing the flow.
In a recent tweet, Agius worried if Fabriclive 94 was "too weird." Aside from that sharp left turn into Sugai Ken, it never veers far enough off course to be labelled as such, though it is his deepest mix yet. As an artist who's often been pigeonholed, from dubstep to disco house, Agius has always used mixes to show off the breadth and depth of his tastes, to prove that there's so much more to him than big-room bangers and festival sets. That's why he takes such care with them, and why they turn out so well.
01. Georgia - Pey Woman
02. Even Tuell - Mental Marathon
03. Jaures - Silence (Before Birth)
04. Juju & Jordash - Monday Mellow
05. Daphni - Vulture
06. Tres Demented - Demented Drums
07. Leif - Shoulders Back
08. Roman Flügel - Warm And Dewy
09. Farah - Lockhead
10. Beatrice Dillon - Halfway
11. Samo DJ & Pedrodollar - Track #3
12. Mannequin Lung - City Lights (Mr Hazeltine Remix feat. Divine Styler)
13. Sugai Ken - Mukashi
14. LFO - Ultra Schall
15. Kowton - Pea Soup
16. General Ludd - Run Don't Play Dead
17. Ben Buitendijk - XXX
18. Santos Rodriguez - Road to Rio, B1
19. Slobban - Amour! (Sankt Goran's Stum Edit)
20. Convextion - Distant Transmission
21. Shinichi Atobe - Free Access Zone 2
22. Vito Ricci - Deep Felt Music
23. Jesper Dahlbäck & Mark O'Sullivan - When I Was Young
24. Midland - First Tube