Marcel Dettmann's 73-minute mix for Fabric feels like an overdue milestone for an artist who has been at the peak of his powers for some time. As such, Fabric 77 is, to some extent, free from any pressure to be a career-defining document; it's as much a showcase for the Berghain resident's label, Marcel Dettmann Records (MDR), as it is an exhibition of the asceticism that informs his lengthy techno sets in Berlin and beyond.
Fabric 77 is Dettmann's third commercial mix CD, and it shares the groovy, introspective style and structure of 2011's Conducted and his storied 2008 entry in the Berghain mix series, despite the predominance of unreleased MDR material. To his credit, the records from MDR are some of the strongest on this mix: with its sparkling synths and thundering drums, Answer Code Request's "Transit 0.2" is an early highlight, as is the following track from Dario Zenker, "Nearlin."
As one might expect, Dettmann gets pretty deep over the course of the 70 minutes he's been allotted here. The foreboding whispers of Terence Fixmer's "Inside of Me" aside, there's no real vocal hook until Norman Nodge's "BB 1.0" (which appears 12 tracks in), and there are a number of nimble gear changes throughout that lend light and shade to Fabric 77. Nimble as these transitions are, they don't always work: there are points where he reins in the momentum rather too suddenly, and at places that feel counterintuitive. This is problematic for a mix of this length, and is Fabric 77's primary flaw. Doing this over the course of an eight-hour set is one thing; employing the same trick for a format that often demands a sustained intensity is quite another.
For instance, the beatless, undulating drone of Rod's "RSPCT," which pops up exactly halfway through Fabric 77, feels like a signpost for things to really explode, but the subsequent selection of "Country Boy Goes Dub," a Dettmann remix which isolates and loops the languid chords of a Carl Craig classic, drains the mix of much of its energy.
Spend some time with Fabric 77, though, and the rewards are there: Phase's remix of Dettmann's "Lightworks" segues beautifully from a simple, bleepy two-tone pulse and a dystopic synth to Lockermatik's "m_lock4," a discordant jumble of concert hall piano keys that best embodies the spirit of the mix's frosty surfaces. Joey Anderson's excellent "Repulsive" makes a welcome appearance towards the home stretch, and is tweaked by Dettmann to give an already uneasy-sounding record an even more stifling air of dancefloor anxiety.
Fabric 77 is, overall, an enjoyable listen, but the mix sometimes feels heavy legged at points where it should be picking up the pace, and as a result, it isn't nearly as energizing as, say, Function's superlative entry for the same mix series under the Sandwell District banner. Still, as a snapshot of Dettmann's label, Fabric 77 serves as an encouraging signpost for what's to come. That these otherwise excellent records aren't always presented with Dettmann's usual zest is, however, a little disappointing.