Damian Lazarus: Fabric 54

It’s entirely satisfying when you listen to something and think you’ve discovered a fraud, and with the imbecilic hype of modern dance music there are certainly enough of those to go around.

But it’s humbling when you retrace your steps and admit that you were wrong. Damian Lazarus really is all that he’s been reputed to be – a DJ that curates as much as he blends, an impresario snatching sound architects from the edge of contemporary House and Techno and building them up for his Crosstown Rebels imprint. I’ve discovered this some two or three years after seemingly the rest of the world, and Fabric 54, the latest installment of the long running compilation of eclectic sounds from Fabric London, is proof.

The sound on Fabric 54 is dark, trippy, sensual, and anything but hectic – in other words, totally unexpected. I was anticipating something a hell of a lot harder than this, and probably a lot more obscure.

This is challenging, to be sure. On the second, third, and fourth spin, I still didn’t get it. By the fifth time around, I found myself looking up some of the tracks to find out more about the people that made them. I can’t remember the last time a commercially-sold compilation made me do that, but I do remember that it was a long-ass time ago.

If you come from the direction of straight-forward House and Techno, you also might not get this on the first spin or even the third. Which is a shame, because that means a hell of a lot of people aren’t going to take the time to get it. Who actually listens to a record several times even though they think they don’t like it? Who actually even gets that opportunity? The listening station with a set of 1200s in the record store has been replaced by a 1:30 clip at 96kps on a crappy-loading flash website. If something doesn’t get your attention in about the time it takes for the punchline of a Geico commercial to sink in, you move on to the next in a seemingly endless list of comfortably familiar names, labels and notions.

There are some names on here that any head is gonna recognize – Cajmere, Deetron, Kenny Larkin, The Martinez Brothers – and quite a bit more that you won’t. And the edgiest track is an instantly familiar tune – Cajmere’s 2002 cut with Walter Phillips “Freaks & Stars”.

What you’ll come across is an extremely challenging, moody, and dark voyage across the edge of the razorblade. Thankfully, it never gets too far into your own head: a good DJ actually understands this, and unless he’s spinning for himself and a few buddies over bongs and beers, he’s going to pull you out of it. Since the art of the mix is pretty much gone from computer-corrected comps these days, we’re down to the selection. And this one is exquisite.