A set from UK garage savant DJ EZ comes with certain expectations. In the decades since he first started in London's pirate-radio circuit, EZ has developed a particularly distinct and recognizable style. One can always count on hearing plenty of DJ drops, specifically the same perky earworm he's used for decades, which features a jewel-bright female voice chirping his name. His mixing is usually choppy and complex, as his style involves nimbly juggling beats with neat, precise movements. And of course, the KISS FM host's staccato transitions will likely connect classic 2-step to grime records and contemporary garage cuts. EZ delivers all his signature moves on his contribution to the longstanding FabricLive series, and the result is a breathless and thoroughly entertaining tour through the last few decades of pop-oriented garage and grime.
FabricLive 71 is not a mix that's stuffed with overlooked treasures from the golden age of garage or even little-known gems from today's underground heroes. EZ does, however, supply plenty of classics, such as Dem 2's XL-endorsed "Destiny" and MJ Cole's 1998 hit "Sincere," and his contemporary selections don't dive much deeper than crossover acts SBTRKT and Disclosure. Of course, EZ is first and foremost a pop-radio DJ, so it makes sense that he'd favor the breakthrough stars of the recent garage-oriented revival. At the same time, it's hard not to see his inclusion of three tracks from Disclosure as overkill. There's the smooth and bubbling "You & Me," a rework of Artful Dodger's "Please Don't Turn Me On," and the comparatively conservative, low-slung "Control." They're all strong tracks that work well in context, but EZ's focus on the most buzzed-about acts means that FabricLive 71 only scratches the surface of the genre's evolution.
EZ is prone to overindulgence, and not just with respect to Disclosure tunes. He's an enthusiastic and highly passionate DJ who's not afraid to play too many DJ drops or exclusive dubplates that throw his name into the mix; on "Please Don't Turn Me On (Disclosure Remix—DJ EZ Special)," vocalist Zoe Kypri belts "This is the sound of DJ EZ/Playing the tunes for me" in lieu of the opening lines from Disclosure's original remix. On "Let's Go Back," grime MC Majestic's homage to the old school, he laments that he missed out on seeing EZ spin in the halcyon days of UK garage and grime. Granted, a certain amount of cheese is par for the course with any EZ mix, but he occasionally goes a little overboard.
That's not to say that his enthusiasm doesn't pay off in the form of an undeniably fun, no-holds-barred romp from banger to banger. There's not a dull moment on FabricLive 71, as EZ keeps things constantly moving and changing; furthermore, his speedy mixing allows him to cram 32 tracks in over the course of a little more than an hour. The mix opens with "EZ Intro 7," a version of the uplifting garage track he used on the Pure Garage compilations, and he navigates deftly and suddenly into bass-heavy grime boomers like Cause & Affect's growling "Kamikaze" and "I Know You Want Me," a sub-smashing cut with a pinched rave vocal from Royal T. From there, he comes back around to hands-in-the-air garage anthems like Todd Edward's bright, noisy "Javid Khan" and strings together time-honored 2-step tracks from the likes of Ed Case and Smokin' Beats. EZ doesn't pull any punches or try any uncharacteristic tricks on FabricLive 71; he's got a successful formula, and he's sticking to it.