While artists like dBridge, Bop, Marcus Intalex, Fixate and the now-lauded Ivy Lab kept the more intelligent, experimental and half-time sound alive in the underground (a world away from the instantly popular jump-up sound that became its own downfall), it was Dub Phizix's crossover smash "Marka" that helped to save drum & bass from its own insular self. With that track, and a a slew of releases since becoming undisputed anthems, it was only a matter of time before the Manchester-born producer made his way into the Fabriclive mix series—and it's good to see the artist championing the peripheral edges of d&b culture with this restless, unpredictable grenade of a mix.
Exploring the multifaceted tempo changes and subtly progressing (and at times degenerating) rhythms, Dub Phizix proves that there's still a lot to shout about regarding modern syncopated beats. Like a king of the quick-mix, he's squeezed an epic 40 tracks into this blistering mix—but what sets him apart from those are the subtle changes and daring peaks and troughs within the overall flow of the set.
Starting with his own weightless, ambient "Break The Chains" (with Mancunian MC legend D.R.S.), the mix kicks off by emanating vapors of Metalheadz at it clicks, hisses and whirs. The pace steadily accelerates as it moves through the broken-beat halftime flex of Ulterior Motive's "Muted" and two unreleased Dub Phizix belters, "Contact" (featuring Skeptical and his demonic sermonizing) and the tech-step driven, rapid fire percussion of "Dummeh," with an exclusive acapella thrown in from MC Chunky—all this before exploding into Chimpo's Noisia-style stepper "Par Excellence," signifying a shift in tempo and mood as the tunes get darker and more off-kilter from the likes of LEVELZ, RIOT and Skeptical.
The proceedings then head back to more jungle-esque armor beats as Chimpo's reimagining of "Champion Sound" melts into the techy minimal drive of Phizix's "Bounce," the tempo and rhythm deviating from each other yet never drifting far from the core 140-bpm template. Fixate's unreleased 'Tic Tac" is laced with Ward 21's ragga sound-killer acapella "Doberman," heralding another switch into more aggressive, weighty tracks, including a stunning VIP acapella of "Marka" blended in to Phizix's "Hooligan Plague." It goes on to skirmish with the likes of Skittles, Sam Binga, the Rum Baba, and a heavy proportion of unreleased yet more Dub Phizix material. Finally finishing up some 40 tracks later, the mix winds down with Phizik's ode to MCR, "Rainy City Music," blended in with Matthew David Stokes's reflective, post-industrial leaning spoken-word poem, "Where Next?"
The mix can take pride as a well-thought, tension-heavy set that flutters between tempos and drum patterns. Proving there's still a lot dynamism left in the drum & bass mix format, Fabriclive 84 is a triumph for its creator—and with the mix's boundary-pushing aesthetic, Fabric's choice of curator harks back to the roots of the famed club, where their breakbeat-led mixes stood as a hallmark of quality guaranteed.