The last 12 months or so have seen Harry Agius (a.k.a Midland) shift in status from being a well-respected convert and contributor of techno to becoming one of the most in demand of DJs emerging from the last decade. Although proven in the live arena, this is also in no small part thanks to achievements on his labels, Graded and Regraded. The latter, a sample-based entity, managed to score consecutive summer smashes in Gerd Janson & Shan's "Surrender'"(2017) and Midland's own "Final Credits", a pacey, melancholic disco bomb and one of the most unforgettable tunes of 2016, originally recorded to sign off his debut Radio 1 Essential Mix. Such was the reception to "Final Credits" that it risked eclipsing the efforts Midland had made throughout the Essential Mix whence it came. Well, it might have, had the mix not been so damn good. Deservedly, it went on to be voted Essential Mix Of The Year.
His following effort is the latest in Fabriclive's prolific series, although anyone anticipating the second part to last year's mix has misjudged Midland's versatility. It is pointless to even try to predict this man's next move, either as a DJ or a producer. This mix might again end on one of his own productions, but the inclusion here sounds less like a floor filler than it does one of the ambient interludes from Queen's "Flash Gordon" soundtrack played live in an exotic bird menagerie.
As opposed to the wild genre-hopping, armchair friendly diversity of the aforementioned radio mix, here Midland has created an imagined experience within the confines of a night at the club, the full evening from expectant queuing to frazzled come down condensed into 74 minutes. And as a master of that realm, he manages it with aplomb.
Although a wholly different beast, no less care and attention has been applied to this effort although perhaps its complexities are disclosed only upon repeated listen. It's an enjoyable task. To hear Midland on Fabriclive is like listening to the fidget, shuffling around in his socks at the afterparty, who simply won't stop playing; you might have brought a favourite mix or new records to play yourself, but within a very short time you realise the best way you can contribute is to submit to the ride of someone who is clearly more adept at reading the moment, the room, and what you yet didn't realise you exactly wanted to hear.
Long transitions and careful programming turn after hours tracks like Juju & Jordash's "Mellow Monday" into bubbling mid set trip outs, its crying synths answered by the ensuing animal wails of Daphni's combination of tribal rhythm and nagging electronics on "Vulture." The melodious percussion of Leif's inventive "Shoulders Back" (from last year's limited 10”) is similarly well placed. It's exactly this ability to frame quirky, often non-4/4 material as highlights that show Midland to be such an imaginative selector and which grant a slowly revealed quality to this stunning mix. His doesn't just skirt around the boundaries of house and techno; he manages to marry far out compositions from the experimental edges of genres into an amalgam that is both danceable and disorientating in its engrossing psychedelic assault. Repetition being one of the most powerful of psychedelic tools, familiar themes are revisited, so in Farah's "Lockhead" we hear an echo of the rhythm played four tracks earlier, only this time with a more muscular intensity.
About halfway through, just as the mix is reaching a driving pound from where you can only imagine a rising crescendo, he reins it back in, purging expectations with a beatless moment. But instead of taking any convoluted route back to peak time, he shifts immediately from the glacial "Ultra Schall" by LFO to an inspired pairing of 2017's "Pea Soup" by Kowton and General Ludd's "Run, Don't Play Dead" from Glasgow's Rubadub. It's as heads-down a moment as you're ever likely to hear in a combination of nonlinear tracks, brain-melting in its building rhythm and tension. He releases it using the Basic Channel indebted "XXX" by Ben Buitendijk before unleashing a track from Santos Rodriguez' Road To Rio EP. Truly one of the mix's standouts, it sounds like a sexy, housier cousin of "Alarms" by Jeff Mills to which it's not difficult to imagine Midland wearing his socks thin on the carpet.
From there he lets you down gently, from the deep extraterrestrial techno of Convextion's "Distant Transmission" to a glistening guitar section which enables the melancholic waves of Jesper Dahlbäck & Mark O'Sullivan's "When I Was Young" to begin lapping at your ears. It's a fitting, considered end, but it's an after party all too short in the hands of this masterful mixer. We weren't nearly ready to come down just yet.
01. Georgia "Pey Woman"
02. Even Tuell "Mental Marathon"
03. Jaures "Silence (Before Birth)"
04. Juju & Jordash "Monday Mellow"
05. Daphni "Vulture"
06. Tres Demented "Demented Drums"
07. Leif - Shoulders "Back"
08. Roman Flügel "Warm And Dewy"
09. Farah "Lockhead"
10. Beatrice Dillon "Halfway"
11. Samo DJ & Pedrodollar "Track #3"
12. Mannequin Lung "City Lights" (Mr Hazeltine Remix feat. Divine Styler)
13. Sugai Ken "Mukashi"
14. LFO "Ultra Schall"
15. Kowton "Pea Soup"
16. General Ludd "Run Don't Play Dead"
17. Ben Buitendijk "XXX"
18. Santos Rodriguez "Road to Rio, B1"
19. Slobban "Amour!" (Sankt Goran's Stum Edit)
20. Convextion "Distant Transmission"
21. Shinichi Atobe "Free Access Zone 2"
22. Vito Ricci "Deep Felt Music"
23. Jesper Dahlbäck & Mark O'Sullivan "When I Was Young"
24. Midland "First Tube"
Fabriclive 94 is scheduled for September 22 release.