Understated Classics #18: Fabric 12 mixed by The Amalgamation Of Soundz
Say what? We’re allowing compilations now?
Yes. Why not? A good mix is as much an artistic statement as a full-blown single artist album. It takes a lot of skill to get from A to B and keep everything on the boil in between. This Fabric mix by The Amalgamation Of Soundz is one of my favourites because it is a downtempo (but, crucially, not too downtempo) compilation delivered with flair and using what I consider to be unconventional sources (soundtracks, tribute albums, hip-hop) to do it.
The Fabric mixes tend to be awash with intelligent house music but at the outset this one barely sounds like dance music at all. The mix begins with a track called Helicopter by Cliff Martinez, a soundtrack composer whose work on Contagion has been discussed here before. Helicopter is from taken from the soundtrack to the movie Traffic and gently drifts along on an insistent pulse before melting in to a track called Hank’s Transition, which is by Asche & Spencer and is also a piece taken from a movie soundtrack, this time the film Monster’s Ball.
Following that is Heart Noir, a rubbery funky piece by the Nick Ingman Orchestra, followed by an instrumental version of Björk’s Come To Me performed by a string quartet. If you thought (like I did) that nothing good could ever come out of albums like “A String Quartet Tribute To…” then you are wrong. I’ve already written about how Come To Me is one of my favourite Björk songs and here the arrangement has to convey the wonderful swooning emotion present in the original by transposing everything to strings. By and large they succeed and so the restrictive format actually allows the listener to hear something new in the song. Of course, this is a mix and so attention needs to be paid to how the mix builds from this track. The answer is that as they mix in Htrs by Geche they manage to take the chilled atmosphere and start to raise the tempo slightly. Despite being labelled as an instrumental it is the first track in the compilation with vocals (albeit heavily processed).
At this point, despite the insistent pulse of Htrs, things are still rather downtempo and this continues into Brown Sugar by Akasha and Pump Da Ball by Sofalofa. The former has something of an Alpha vibe to it though it’s probably the jazzy flutes and the spoken word vocals pushed down low into the mix that make me think this, while the latter has a nice trip-hoppy vibe to it. The same can be said for the Amalgamation Of Soundz remix of Meaning by Richard Davis, which ups the tempo a bit further. I really liked Richard Davis’s contributions to the Bomb The Bass album Back To Light and he has done some good tracks with Trentmøller too.
The next track in the mix is an undisputed classic: Papua New Guinea by Future Sound Of London (another band you can expect to read about in this series soon). Unfortunately it is one of the more recently released “Translations” of the track (number 3 if you must know) so it is not very recognisable as Papua New Guinea - features like the famous vocal line are entirely absent - and the whole track plays out like a set up for the next one, Håkan Lidbo’s Cuba Libre. Fortunately this begins to take things back up a notch with Cuba Libre playing out like the soundtrack to a demented drugged-up conga line before the mix slips into RJD2’s Chicken Bone Circuit for a bit of funky drumming and the feeling that the pace will pick up from here.
The next track is the first of two of amalgamation Of Soundz’s own tracks and the first to really head for the dance floor. Built on a chunky a bass line, an 80’s sax, a rapped loop, and a clipped vocal sample from what sounds like So Hard by the Pet Shop Boys, it certainly stands out as being something you can actually dance to. Next up is Save Your Soul by Angelo D’Onorio, a faster track again but still in keeping with the chilled out party vibe it stays with the latin beach feel of Heart Noir and Cuba Libre, while some nice synth filters later in the track present the possibility of going somewhere else later in the mix. About three minutes in we get to hear what that might be as the track bursts into a wonderful piece of techno house.
This sets things up nicely for Are You Sure About That? by The Hi-Lo’s, which is probably the most muscular track here, and then Systemizing by Jeff Bennet, which is a very satisfactory bit of throbbing groove - it’s very much the peak of the mix here. After that there is the appropriately named Groove Control by Soultek, a track that starts to take down the tempo again while dredging along a deep, pretty, bass line. After that comes the second Amalgamation Of Soundz track Summer Night which alternates between burbling away in a cute downtempo techno house style and a beautiful vocal sample that evokes the sun going down. Things round out with Still Phil’s Bey Un Bey that gently brings everyone back to earth, it’s a fabulous mix of a mournful cello, clicky house rhythms and the same latin vibe that has coursed through the whole mix.
Taken as a whole, I love this mix in particular because it shows that not every mix has to go like the clappers, nor does it have to be entirely amorphous and beatless. It is possible to go from one place to another and back again. I’ve found plenty of mixes since that also do this but this was probably the first mix that I really loved in its entirety and it is certainly one of the only compiled mixes that I consistently go back to, though three others would be the DJ Kicks entries by Fourtet, Daddy G and Erlend Øye.