Fabric Live 15 mixed by Nitin Sawhney
The Fabric Live series aims to bring the Friday night soundclashes at London's famed superclub to those of us not lucky enough to witness leading DJs drop the best in breakbeat, drum n' bass and hip hop. Mixing an installment means filling some big ass shoes - everyone from resident James Lavelle and Howie B to DJ Hype and Grooverider have had their sets released.
There has been much hype recently surrounding the 'arrival' of South Asians in mainstream popular culture ('Bombay Dreams' opening on Broadway, the critical and commercial success of Jay-Z's appearance on "Beware of the Boys", Aish's upcoming Hollywood debut and on and on). Equally hyped, especially among the fusion heads, comes this - Nitin Sawhney's signature mosaic of sound - inspired by his Fabric gig. And what a gig it must have been.
Against a bass heavy backdrop, "All the colors are changing" goes the refrain of the opening tune by Koop to which Nitin has added his own, although slightly abridged, take. While maintaining its original jazz textures, it subtly takes the Swedish duo's original composition and adds a tasteful club twist. While the Seiji Remix of Nitin's own "Eastern Eyes" can be skipped without an ounce of bad conscience (Natacha's wistful vocals, blasé house beats - yawn), Free Form Five's take on Beyond Skin's outstanding "Homelands" carries the original into serious flamenco territory without letting up and yes, we are surely thankful that it doesn't. The same track gets a reworking via the highly infectious rolling groove of Vienna's finest, Dzihan & Kamien, an equally impressive affair, adding extra electronics and deep percussion. 2:35 into the song and you're hoping the groove will just keep coming back. Nitin then explores his love for abstract, jazz inflected broken beats over the next handful of tracks before moving into soulful drum n' bass courtesy of Hospital Records. Hospital has released some of the most intriguing, melodic drum n' bass/breakbeat pressure since its inception 6 years ago and the two tracks featured here by Phuturistix and Darqwan exhibit menacing, yet jazzy-groove oriented basslines. What follows next is an onslaught of hardcore Asian breaks blending traditional vocal harmonies and frenetic beats (Nitin gets an extra nod on my behalf for including a personal favorite, "Militant 24"). The Craig Armstrong/Photek collaboration brings the mix to a safe end, blending a haunting choral with synth lines, gentle strings and striking electronics, precisely what you would expect from the coming together of the ace composer and drum n' bass pioneer.
Nitin has always been one of the more daring fusionists of our time and this very mix shows the diversity of sounds that form his musical palette from which he's been brushing broad strokes of eclecticism. Lame attempts at artistic metaphors aside, ignoring the few excursions into leftfield and broken beat, which most casual listeners will find highly inaccessible and the three Nasha: Eastern Drum and Breaks tracks in a row (can't help feeling a little cheated by these inclusions that just happen to all be conveniently near the same BPM...), this will end up becoming one of the most highly sought after DJ mixes in years to come. Mira Nair was recently quoted as saying about the South Asian hype: "We bear no illusions about the elite anymore. We are the elite." I like to think that she was talking about people like Nitin Sawhney.