For a CD that seems primed to send the hype machine into overheating histrionics, however, the big surprise of Fabriclive.56 is how restrained it is. Kennedy foregoes the whiplash mixing style common to many of his peers and instead carefully layers a tapestry of interlocking rhythms. The momentum snowballs slowly to the point where you're suddenly halfway across the room and you've got no idea how you got there.
Transitions are untraceable (the CD's sequencing is more like wishful thinking), with new songs ghosting in at the perfect moments or sometimes stuck underneath other layers for their entire running time. The mix consists of a number of Kennedy staples, including new and unreleased originals like the stuttering "Project" or the bouncy "Stifle," but it's—refreshingly—not merely a showcase of Kennedy's dubplate muscle, including several choice inclusions such as Levon Vincent's now classic "Late Night Jam." With the exception of a few moments—the massive drop in Burial's "Pirates" or the heart-in-throat suspension of his "Symphonic Refix" of Joy Orbison's "GR Etiquette"—the mix is smooth sailing, propped upright even as it sails through stylistically turbulent waters.
Indeed, while Fabriclive.56 might be a mostly slick ride, it's anything but a safe one; the opening stretch, as it accelerates towards 130BPM, bubbles and percolates through a myriad of house rhythms, almost derailed by the jarring inclusion of the Shangaan Electro producer Tiyiselani Vomaseve, whose cacophonous "Vanghoma" tests the supposed compatibility of "Vanghoma" with its alleged spiritual partner UK bass music. Nor does Kennedy ever stick to one zone; when he's not blending elaborate and stubborn tracks (A Made Up Sound's off-kilter "Demons"), he's throwing in orthodox dubstep—D1's "Subzero"—or the steel-plated grime of MJ Cole's "From the Drop." Kennedy even includes a number of inspiring mashups that have been floating around for a good while, notably the ingenious blend of "Glut" with "Woo Riddim."
Fabriclive.56 is more like a level-headed confirmation, a plateau, than some grand conclusion or victory lap; it offers an alternate view into the mind of one of the most fascinating producers going right now, whose DJing talents are sometimes ignored. There's a distinct personality at work here, as tracks swoop over and under each other and create new multi-layered monstrosities, more than the sum of their parts. While Kennedy's careful and clever mix might not change lives, his installment is both uncommonly strong for the inconsistent Fabriclive series and makes a case for the ongoing integration of "bass music" and what was formerly dubstep into the open clearing of dance music.