Instead of casting a reflective and dewy eye in the general direction of former glories, fabric have instead opted to entrust the half-century to a DJ/producer who floated off on a raft of his own long ago. Whether for geographical, social, political or nonsensical reasons, Martyn has never been anchored by the expectation, or moreover, limitations of any one scene; and in the case of fabric 50, his blatant disregard for what should and should not rub shoulders, bountifully refreshes, rather than vexes. Case in point: The two remix appearances from Ostgut's Ben Klock: Martyn is able to recontextualize the tracks to such an extent that you find yourself furrowing your brow, straining to remember when the Berghain resident began writing UK funky.
Right from the get-go, though, (Hudson Mohawke's post-Dizzee LP cut "Joy Fantastic"), it's apparent that the very notion of the fabric mix is about to come under threat. The track is smeared with a youthful shade of fluorescent muck that simultaneously distances the CD from foregoing efforts in a mere four minutes. There follows the construction of a ramshackle sonic foundation in which scatty samba rhythms are the building blocks; Maddslinky's "Lost On Tenori Street" shuffles with the best of them, but its irresistible undulating synth works hard on the ears, as well as the feet.
As Zomby makes the first of three appearances with "Little Miss Naughty," you can sense that Martyn has already placed the crook around your neck and is ready to yank. The combined effect of unrelenting percussive pressure and metallic synthesis drags you into a heightened state of readiness in which every hit—or suggestion of such—is anticipated in earnest. There are pockets of respite, however, such as that provided by the legato loveliness of Cooly G's "Feeling You." The track wades in a pool of chords, before Roska's clattering version of Martyn's "These Words" once again demands action.
You may think it the words of an over-stimulated writer to suggest that fabric 50 has no discernable faults, but as far in as track 18 (Levon Vincent's unfeasibly raw "Air Raid") you finally regroup and realise that there hasn't been so much as a wobble in selection or mixing. Even rolling out "Vancouver" for the umpteenth time feels vital shorn of its vocal, while in this context, the often divisive output of the Made To Play imprint feels like a triumphant acid house fist pump, via Jan Driver's "Rat Alert."
In the notes for the release, Martyn describes fabric 50 as a "temporary moment" as if to suggest that the mix should carry an expiry date. Of course it's futile to second guess whether or not fabric 50 will spoil in the coming weeks or months, but for the time being at least, it couldn't taste fresher. Shelf life or not, fabric 50 is a milestone by virtue of it being first: The first full release to unify house, techno, dubstep and UK funky to such a glorious extent; the first to portend the possibilities for coexistence between disparate scenes and sounds; and the first to make DJ Bone sound like he was born in Croydon.