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Noisia: Beautiful Effects

Deep within the crowded confines of a warehouse on the outskirts of the Dutch city of Groningen, Thijs de Vlieger is working up a sweat. “We don’t have an air conditioner in the studio, and we need one down here badly,” he says over the intermittent hum of a revolving fan. “Maybe that’s the secret to our music–the heat.”

As one-third of the drum & bass crew Noisia, the young DJ and producer has a point. His group is definitely hot right now–so much so that everyone from Robbie Williams to Moby has invited de Vlieger and partners-in-grime Nik Roos and Martijn van Sonderen to lend their distinct brand of aggro-filth to recent remixes. Meanwhile, Noisia’s self-curated labels Vision (“Noisia” spun 180 degrees) and Division are churning out 12-inch dancefloor burners at a furious clip, which prompted London’s Fabric club to reach out for their latest mix excursion, Fabriclive 40.

“We’ve all played sets at Fabric on our own,” de Vlieger explains, “so for this mix, we felt that we had to do our usual drum & bass thing, but we also had to play some deeper stuff: breakbeat, electro, and downtempo. That’s actually something we’re trying to focus on for our [forthcoming debut] album, which is gonna have a lot more breakbeat and electro than most people would expect from us.”

Working exclusively on Cubase with a slew of effects processors and filter plug-ins (and some key synths–the Access Virus TI and Roland SH-201 among them), Noisia has built a solid rep for delivering the unexpected when it comes to drum & bass. One of their earliest sides for Nerve Recordings (2003’s “Silicon”) showed a keen ear for constantly morphing sonic textures, precision-layered beats, and heavy-duty bass; they’ve since parlayed that aesthetic into a full-on production scheme that has sparked collaborations with Teebee, Mayhem, Phace, South African singer Tasha Baxter, and Amon Tobin.

“It’s always been a mission of ours to do music that you can listen to at home, in a car, or in a club,” de Vlieger says, citing fellow D&B artists Cause 4 Concern and Ed Rush & Optical as influences. “Every sound has to be beautiful in its own way. We don’t just put effects on a sound for the effect itself. Whatever processing we do, it has to give a nice, interesting sound to everything that we put out.”

To that end, Fabriclive 40 cuts a radical profile. Rife with Noisia staples that include the stuttery, downtempo dub joint “Head Knot (Fabric Mix)” and the pitch-bent jeep beats of their remix for Moby’s “Alice”–which quickly reboots as a double-time jump-up anthem with ragga vocals from underground Brit MC Aynzil–the set is a mind-exploding snapshot of where drum & bass is headed.

“You need that element of randomness to be successful,” de Vlieger insists, “but you need to learn to be patient and wait for it. It usually always happens, but let’s face it–like football, you have to force your luck.”

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