‘Minimal' might now be a concept that’s going to haunt us for all eternity, but it would be churlish to suggest that an old hand like Carola is a Johnny-just-come to the genre. So minimal it begins: Carola flexing his tribal instincts on Matt John’s bouncy ‘IO’, which entices us into a groove that keeps us locked in – the goal of any DJ worth his salt. Clicky tribal tappings give way to funkier stuff with Gabriel Ananda's excellent rerub of 'You Got Good Ash', built around chiming bells and dissonant tones, while Paco Osuna's 'Cretine' is typical Carola material with a driving funky bass and wooden rattles: the first of a number of unexpected voids on ‘Fabric 31’. Marc Houle and Audio Werner provide bigger moments which move the mix from playful background listening to an energetic afterparty: both ‘Kicker’ and ‘Onandon’ are slick productions which transport you right to the middle of a dancefloor.
In the closing stages Carola steadies the ship, but not before treating us to weirded out, nonsensical instances from Microfunk and Heartthrob, two names which seem to be popping up all over the place of late. The last word is a sprinkle of melody from Ernie and darkness at the end of the tunnel from Alex Smoke – grains of sand that inevitably slip through our fingers.
Like Carola’s club sets, ‘Fabric 31’ sounds like one 73-minute long track to get inside of. At times it’s a little too sleek for my liking, but there’s enough perk in the tracks to ensure that it stays on the right side of the smooth/bland continuum. That it is Carola’s debut mix CD is reason enough to check it out, but it does enough to keep both Carola’s devotees happy while showing that he's kept abreast of changing times. Managing to fuse minimal du jour, Carola’s style, and most importantly, the groove, ‘Fabric 31’ proves that while many have their fingers on the pulse of European club techno, it takes a perceptive DJ to bring it all together.