Various Artists fabric 94: Steffi - XLR8R

Various Artists fabric 94: Steffi

The veteran DJ's latest mix explores a wide swathe of electro-laced rhythms.
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F94-STEFFI-PACKSHOT

The Netherlands’ Steffi Doms, to her credit, has never really settled on a narrowly focused sound. From her earliest DJ sets in the ’90s, through her move to Berlin and subsequent adoption by the Ostgut Ton family in the ’00s, and through a slew of solo productions and collaborations, the Panorama Bar resident has explored Larry Heard–esque deep house, kinetic Detroit-tinged techno, percolating club-pop, and more. But what really gets her going is electro in all of its myriad forms, from the IDM end of the electro realm (she’s cited Autechre and the Warp label as early loves) to the more dancefloor-friendly end of the spectrum. On her mix for the venerable fabric series, she sets out to explore that range over the course of 71 minutes—and the result plays as a mix in two halves, with the first portion given over to electro’s more experimental side, and the second dedicated to teched-up party rockers. The happy surprise is that’s she’s managed to merge those two halves into a coherent, not to mention highly enjoyable, listen.

Following the drifting, prepare-for-takeoff ambiance of L.u.c.a.’s set-opening “Echo 1,” fabric 94’s first half hour is a dreamy synthesis of moody atmosphere and intricate rhythms, with angular percussion blanketed by soothing, swooning synths. The rapid-fire shuffle of Voiski’s “Sound Of Distance” leads to the thundering kick and quasi-sacred aura of “1.5” from Steffi and Shed’s new STFSHD project, while “Freedom,” from Russian artist Unbalance, buries its tribal syncopation beneath a sheen of angelic synth washes. The ornate, pinging “66,” a track from Steffi’s Klakson label partner Dexter, features an elegantly squalling tone that’s vaguely reminiscent of Aquarhythm’s 1995 classic, “Bodyjazz Bodyfusion.” Underpinned by a rough-grain rhythm, it’s a cut that positively drips with emotion.

Despite their sometimes cosmic feel, any of these tracks, given the right sound system (like, say, fabric’s) could rock a dance floor. But “66” marks the passage of fabric 94’s first half and the beginning of the other, more traditionally clubby second section. The transition’s not a sharp one by any means—the brawny bassline and breakneck percussive ornamentation of 214’s “Sound Moments” and the funked-up drive of Mesak’s “Commonaukko” glide in nimbly; the groove’s taken over before a shift in vibe has registered. But once it does, Steffi’s off and running. Sky-scraping swoops and rubbery keys give the Duplex duo's “Voidfiller” a galvanic feel; "Saturniidae," from Israel’s Afik Naim, boasts air-pushing oomph and an engaging bit of space-organ action; Dexter & Virginia’s wields bursts of ’80s-esque keyboards and a chanted vocal to a tumbling, propulsive acid line. Through it all, Steffi’s smart enough to largely steer clear of electro’s occasional reliance on pseudo-serious sci-fi trappings, which three decades on from the sound’s birth have arguably descended into cliché.

It’s not an accident that Steffi’s able to weave the set’s two strands—music made for the head versus music with a more carnal aim—into such a satisfying whole. These tracks, exclusives all, were commissioned specifically for fabric 94, and it's a safe bet that Steffi had some form of master plan in mind when giving guidance to the mix’s artists, who are largely plucked from her deep pool of electronic-music pals. Still, it’s an impressive achievement—and when Privacy’s “Broke” finishes the set off with its opposing poles of wistfully emotional melody and thrusting electro rhythm, it feels as though Steffi’s managed to sum up her mix with a single track.

01 L.u.c.a. - Echo 1
01 Voiski - Sound of distance
03 STFSHD - 1.5
04 Unbalance – Freedom
05 Doms & Deykers - No life on the surface
06 Answer Code Request - Forking path
07 Dexter – 66
08 214 - Sound moments
09 Mesak - Commonaukko
10 Duplex - Voidfiller
11 Late Night Approach - Poison valley
12 UAS - World gets crazy
13 Afik Naim – Saturniidae
14 Dexter & Virginia - Off the beat
15 Privacy – Broke