This mix shows the Belgian superstar can do more than drop techno bangers, but it sometimes shows other limits to her full-on style.
"What is with people telling me I don't tell a story because I play bangers," Amelie Lens tweeted last year. "Ever considered that is exactly my story?" In the five years since she crossed over from the fashion industry to become an international headlining DJ, the 29-year-old has been a lightning rod for techno's most tedious debates over who "deserves" success. Her selfies have attracted bellyaching ire from Richie Hawtin (OK boomer). Her releases have been met with an increasing anti-big-room snobbery. Her live and DJ sets have inspired Reddit rants and debates about whether she's too commercial or too one-dimensional with her selections. Those comments may have shaped her entry to fabric's new mix series. While fabric presents Amelie Lens demonstrates that Lens can do more than just play bangers, it also proves that she's at her best when slamming it out.
The mix's general arc is conventional. The deep introductory segment sets the mood before Lens tunnels down into heavy floor-fillers halfway. Steely trips from SLV & Z.I.P.P.O and Pär Grindvik open the mix with a throb, not thunder. She sinks into intensity by track five, a snare-rolling storm from Nur Jaber that greets the mix's harder section with a sultry invitation to "rave with me." But Lens still holds back, teasing anthemic melodic themes out of heads-down grinders, one of which is her own snarling instrumental, titled "Solitude Tool." There's a push-pull momentum between the hooky trance tracks and darker techno cuts that keeps the energy just below a boil.
She doesn't start to cane it until about 30 minutes in. The drums get tougher, and the hats get rigid and chunky rather than skating or wispy. From there, Lens maintains a buoyancy that's more exciting than the austere, dreamy mood at the start. There's a sense of drama to her DJing at full steam. Lens' transitions demand more attention and her selections are nastier, but they never really transgress into nosebleed territory. On Blicz & Geerson's "Eleven Roses," acid lines twist in agony out of filtered breakbeats during the breakdown. It's a showstopper, and Lens knows it. She allows it to come to a complete halt for a moment of tremendous silence.
She returns to a broken beat a few tracks later with "Reaktor Rave." They both break up the forward momentum in a gratifying way, but the decision to end on breakbeats in a four-on-the-floor set also feels a little uncreative—as does the decision to start with a deeper mood. I ended up imagining the mix in reverse, with Lens starting with her most interesting material and working backwards into an introspective mood that settles incrementally. It would have been more daring, less rote.
This all makes for a solid mix that demonstrates Lens' ability to steer energy through different styles. Still, I don't come away from fabric presents Amelie Lens with a strong sense of her identity as a DJ. It's a competent tour through a narrow range of styles that are all pretty familiar: labyrinthine techno, anthemic capital-T techno, jacking acid techno, and, at the end, UK breakbeat techno. That Amelie Lens plays bangers isn't a problem, because she's good at it. In fact, she's solid enough to take more risks to prove her detractors wrong next time.
Tracklist01. SLV & Z.I.P.P.O - Theory Of Relativity
02. Pär Grindvik - Isle Of Real (Colombia M.I.L.Y 2019)
03. Michael Klein - Boiling
04. Flug - ADSR
05. Nur Jaber - Rave With Me
06. Setaoc Mass - Thin Blue Line
07. MSKD - Savage Earth
08. Solitude Tool video
09. Anetha - Nikita
10. Irregular Synth - Mutation
11. Milo Spykers - Look Ahead
12. AIROD - Liquor
13. Blicz & Geerson - Eleven Roses
14. Ahl Iver - Cry For Redemption
15. Lukas Firtzer - Praise The Night
16. Farrago - Ensnare
17. Glaskin - Reaktor Rave
18. Regal & Alignment - Astro
19. Hadone - Courtship Unleashed