- A mix CD master steps up for fabric's second-last instalment.
- Of course Sasha was chosen to mix fabric 99, the second-last instalment in the London club's revered series. His relationship with the venue goes back almost 20 years—he played one of the club's earliest parties in November 1999—and he's arguably dance music's premier mix CD specialist, responsible not only for helping spawn the format with Renaissance: The Mix Collection alongside John Digweed in 1994, but for delivering some of its greatest-ever volumes. It's tempting, then, to frame fabric 99 as the long-overdue collaboration between the scene's best mix artist and its best mix series. Overall, it lives up to the billing.
About fabric, Sasha has said: "I feel it's somewhere I play differently to anywhere else in the world." That comes across on fabric 99, a mix that subtly challenges expectations of a typical Sasha set. Melody and drama, long since the UK DJ's calling cards, sit front and centre, but the moods are muted and slow to unfurl, with few of the noisy or overly sentimental theatrics that can plague his DJing. It makes sense that he recorded it—albeit without a crowd—in fabric's Room 1, a dance floor that rewards DJs who master the art of tension-building. The transitions, programmed using various bits of software and hardware, are consistently spotless and occasionally spectacular, showing his superhuman ear for a killer mix. Even the vocal cuts—so often the downfall of big-room DJs—pass the test, bold and radiant with emotion without inviting eye-rolls.
Great house and techno DJing is partly about restraint, which Sasha exhibits expertly on fabric 99. The opening four tracks set a smoky scene, all soft tones and catchy, subdued melodies. They go so well together—Kora's "Ovo" into "Cup Of Joe" by Tom Flynn, in particular—that I had to comb through each of them on YouTube to figure out the stitching. On the fifth track, a smart blend between Indigo's "Sunrise" and "My Way" by Will Saul's CLOSE project, the sounds intensify, preparing the listener for Joyce Muniz's remix of DJ Hell's "Guede," a house bomb with a big hook and crashing hi-hats that would rock any peak-time floor.
The energy could have swelled from there, but instead Sasha pulls back, dropping into Jus-Ed's rolling remix of "Nature's Law" by Ghosts On Tape followed by Whitesquare's "Abraxas," a slice of mellow, melodic techno. Two tracks later, he repeats the same trick: just as things get noisy on Crowdpleaser's "After Rhône 2013" and Exercise One & Mathew Jonson's "Lost Forever In A Happy Crowd," he slips into "Smoke Monk (Fabric Mix)," a stripped-back weapon with a wicked bassline that's one of two unreleased Sasha originals on the mix. These moments of respite, however brief, give fabric 99 its shape and build suspense. They also allow Sasha to take unexpected detours—he goes from "Smoke Monk (Fabric Mix)" into the jungle rhythms of Objekt's "Needle & Thread."
DJs like Sasha guide listeners through these peaks and troughs so that the payoff is that much sweeter. After "Needle & Thread," the mix returns to big-room house and techno, though this time the melodies are brighter, the atmospheres more dramatic. On its own, it's the least captivating passage—loopy, loud and occasionally cheesy. In any other context, the explosive closing track—BAILE's "Amae (Sasha fabric1999 Mix)"—would be too much to stomach, its soaring vocal too earnest. But after 70 minutes of push and pull, there's something gratifying about being hit with such emotional heft. Sasha became one of the world's biggest DJs because he had a talent for mixing records in a way that inspired profound feelings in people. fabric 99 shows he's still got it.
01. Agnes Obel - Stretch Your Eyes (Ambient Acapella) / Agnes Obel - Stretch Your Eyes (Quiet Village Remix)
02. Marbert Rocel - I Wanna (Heitzberg Theorem Club Edit)
03. Kora (CA) - Ovo
04. Tom Flynn - Cup Of Joe
05. Indigo - Sunrise / CLOSE - My Way feat. Joe Dukie
06. DJ Hell - Guede (Joyce Muniz Terror + Natur Remix)
07. Ghosts On Tape - Nature's Law (Jus-Ed Remix)
08. Whitesquare - Abraxas
09. Crowdpleaser - After Rhône 2013
10. Exercise One & Mathew Jonson - Lost Forever In A Happy Crowd
11. Sasha - Smoke Monk (Fabric Mix)
12. Objekt - Needle & Thread
13. Jono Ma & Dreems - A Love Trance Mission From Nk To 7s
14. Efdemin - Acid Bells (DJ Koze Edit)
15. Javier Logares & Kaarel - La Cuarta Galaxia (Tiefschwarz Remix) / George Fitzgerald - Echo Forgets (Sasha's Moog-apella)
16. Carl Craig - At Les feat. Francesco Tristano, Les Siècles & François-Xavier Roth (Antigone Remix)
17. BAILE – Amae feat. Felicia Douglass (Sasha fabric1999 Mix)