What was billed as the launch party for fabric's latest mix CD—the milestone 50th in the series—became, at around 4: 30 AM on Sunday morning, something really quite different. With his name twice on the bill as well as on the CD, you'd have expected the Dutch producer/DJ Martyn to emerge from the night as the name on everyone's lips. In fact, all I really want to talk about is Pépé Bradock. Before we got to Pépé, though, there was about three hours of not very much happening.
We went into Room 3 for about ten minutes and I can't remember a thing about it. Room 2 likewise, as Tim Green was doing a passable impression of a metronome with ideas above its station. At least Actress, sporting a fetching trapper hat in the Room 1 booth, had decided to treat the night like a proper party, mixing Crystal Waters into Smith N Hack, followed by Bell Biv DeVoe's "Poison." That prompted more than a few smiles, as did the spectacle of one man really going for it on the stage. Unfortunately Kode9's rather po-faced set put paid to that, as he took what should have been exciting rave music (including the usually irresistible "Hyph Mngo") and made it all sound a bit tiring. Donnacha Costello fared badly not only with the Room 2 soundsystem, but also—surprisingly—with his own material, which managed to bore me within ten minutes of starting.
Martyn did a good job of perking things up at 3 AM and the crowd in Room 1 swelled in response. He joined the dots between his various loves (Detroit, Berlin, bass): The emotion of Model 500's "I Wanna Be There" led into Ben Klock's more clinical "Warszawa" and the old-new combination made perfect sense coming from someone whose music seems to aim for the same effect. My personal highlight was Jark Prongo's "Bad Beat," which was far funkier than any of the "funky" Kode9 had been trying out earlier. That's not to say Martyn didn't play his fair share of unmemorable funky tracks too, but they felt a tad more vital for what he surrounded them with. Some sounded almost jacking in places. The one downside to his set was the big laptop screen, to which he often remained glued, and which created a barrier between him and the audience.
Pépé Bradock was doing the same with an elegant-looking Mac, but perhaps because of his diminutive stature it was less of an issue from the other side of the grill. We wouldn't have been able to see him anyway. Quite frankly, though, by about 15 minutes in I couldn't have cared less what setup he was using, as he played what I would rank as the best hour or so of music I've ever heard in the venue. There is a particular sound that I know some people associate with fabric Room 1, a sound that's difficult to pin down but is also instantly recognisable. Bradock played that sound, but it was shot through with a touch of lightness and air that outshone any other variants of it that I've heard.
Buoyant, percussive, at times explosive and at others as gentle as you like, the tracks flowed into each other with the same ease you hear in his productions. Bradock sometimes mixed just the highs for over a minute at a time, while at other times if a bassline was particularly big he would just isolate that. And the floor would shake. It was joyful, motivational, groovy dance music at its best, and what made it even more wonderful was that I didn't recognise a thing for that whole hour.
Midway through Matthew Dear's "Dog Days" Bradock slammed down on the pitch control, signalling an hour of slower and deeper house with a touch of italo creeping in. The arrival of the Room 2 masses failed to dampen the mood (all credit to the Room 1 crowd—for once it was great), nor did whatever computer fuck-up caused Soundstream's "Love Jam" to start skipping backwards. The best moment of the night came with the ten-minute airing of one of those end-of-the-world tracks that could only work in fabric Room 1, with a bassline plunging further below the floor than you'd think possible. By this point it seemed Martyn had ceded the booth to Bradock indefinitely, and so it proved, as the Frenchman rounded off the night with a far-out selection of tracks, including a flash of disco and then a plaintive folk song.
It had been over six months since my last visit to the club and, apart from the prices going up, it remains largely unchanged. What that means is a potent mixture of, on the one hand, having to make an awful lot of effort (financially and physically) without much satisfaction and, on the other hand, having some of the best music you're ever likely to hear served up to you on the shiniest of plates. Since this weekend was free for fabricfirst members, there was really very little to complain about. And, for me, there's been little better than that opening hour or two of Bradock.