For well over a decade, Thomas Franzmann, better known as Zip, has been enormously respected by a relatively small number of people. He is, in other words, a cult favorite. Most of this fervor comes from his style as a selector, something that's born out of his DJ sets and in the catalogue of Perlon, arguably one of the best house labels of all time, which he co-founded in the mid-'90s. In both roles, Zip embodies the modern and playfully experimental side of house. More simply, he's a fantastic DJ, delivering (on a good night) a dynamic, cleverly mixed and largely mysterious medley of records (all the while wearing the grin of someone about to play a prank). For some, seeing what's in his bag is reason enough to go out, and the phrase "Zip plays this" has the same christening effect as the Hard Wax "tip!"
Few artists with this kind of clout keep such a low profile, something that, if not exactly deliberate, is certainly Zip's own doing. Unimpressed by digital (Perlon is still all-vinyl), uninterested in press and seemingly unfazed by any career obligation aside from DJing or releasing music, he organically achieves the kind of mysterious aura some artists carefully design. Even as a DJ he's very withdrawn: he plays in Berlin much more than anywhere else, and mostly at Panorama Bar, where he and Sammy Dee have hosted Get Perlonized on the first Friday of every month for the past eight years. This, too, seems to be his choice—at a party one time I actually heard him bragging to another DJ about how few gigs he had coming up. The amazing thing, then, is how much impact he still has: he's never left the top 50 of RA's annual DJs poll, despite playing less than half as many gigs as most other artists on the list. The explanation for this, however, is simple: an extraordinary portion of the people who have seen Zip consider him their favorite DJ.
All of this makes Zip an especially interesting choice for the fabric series. For someone who leans heavily on obscure, unreleased and never-to-be-released material, the licensing (or even tracklisting) realities of a commercial mix are problematic, which might be part of why he's never done one before (aside from the Superlongevity compilations, though mixing your own label's material is obviously a different ballgame). Even from a media standpoint, he seems a bit awkward on the big stage—the mix's press release, in most cases loaded with in-depth comments from the artist, included just this simple quote: "I did the mix with two record players, two CD players and my favourite mixer. I was alone in my studio and it felt just like it did when I was doing a mixtape ages ago. Only this one comes with slightly more pressure..."
Not too enlightening at face value, but it's actually pretty much how the mix sounds: relaxed, unfussy and off-the-cuff. At first pass fabric 67 might seem a little underwhelming, or slightly lacking in that special Zip magic (there are no "WTF" moments here), but it grows on you. It's loaded with selections that show Zip's unique ear and his years of experience, the best example being Nail's "Till the Feelings Gone," a house track taken from an out-of-print (but soon to be reissued) album from 1996. Just like in the club, Zip has a way of getting really spaced out and then coming back to earth at the right moment, which happens to the greatest effect in the final two tracks: the rough-edged weirdness of "Blackholes (Sun of God Remix)," followed by the friendly melodies of Isolée's "Music."
At the risk of giving in to unfair expectations, it does feel like something, however marginal, is missing here—a spark, for lack of a better term, that would make fabric 67 brilliant instead of very good. In the past year we've had plenty of reminders of what's possible with a mix CD; Levon Vincent and Ben Klock's fabric efforts, for instance, showed the artists at their best and vividly documented their signature styles. Given how singular his sound is, Zip seems like a candidate for this kind of slam-dunk mix, but this one just doesn't have that kind of chemistry. But this probably isn't worth dwelling on too much. Is fabric 67 Zip at his best? No. But Zip at half-tilt is still pretty exceptional.
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Tracklist: Zip - fabric 67 01. Vedomir - Dreams
02. San Proper & Steven De Peven - Pam Pam
03. Nail - Till the Feelings Gone
04. Melchior Productions Ltd - She Like
05. Pluto - Point Blank
06. G. Marcell - Excites Me
07. Jovonn - Satisfied (Moodyfied Mix)
08. Twin TM - The Fall of the House of Shadows
09. Soul Capsule - Seekers
10. Dan Curtin - Convergence
11. Sakro - Jazz in the Forest
12. DJ QU - Everybody's Dark
13. Scott Grooves feat. Roy Ayers - Expansions (Pyramid Bonus Beats)
14. Terrence Dixon - Return of the Speaker People (Kausto's Sudden Aphasia Mix)
15. Kenny Larkin - Drone
16. Armando & Steve Pointdexter - Blackholes (The Sun Of God Remix)
17. IsolÃ©e - Music
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