It's been said that fabric's like three clubs in one, and their recent WYS Bank Holiday party sure made clear it's—at the least—two. With Oliver Huntemann headlining room one, and Chris Liebing and Terence Fixmer running the show in two, the divide between these spaces couldn't have been more obvious.
Huntemann was showcasing his ReacTable set-up—a glowing table with what looked like toy blocks pushed around to apparent musical effect, all within a mildly budget-looking LED cage. It's not entirely clear with any live electronic set-up what exactly is going on, and how it makes music, but for this reviewer at least, the link between physical activity was blurred at best and tenuous at worst. Every time a block was turned—and projected onto accompanying screens flanking Huntemann—I strained to hear a change: a shift in tempo perhaps, or an alteration in beat pattern. And while, of course, these changes did occur (and individually, the tracks were musically excellent), it was less than obvious what was going on with toys on the table. It did appear that when something was lifted off, something stopped (did the bass cut out? Was that a hi-hat that faded out?), but how this was any more engaging than a button being pressed on a laptop, I struggled to see.
Live shows in the world of electronic music are decidedly risky. I've seen some excellent ones. When I saw Scan 7, for example, they had a ton of gear, keyboards, drum racks, synths, and were dressed in black jumpsuits and wearing black balaclavas. And they moved, in unison, behind the keyboards, and hit the kit with energy. There was a direct connection between activity and musical development. With the ReacTable, unfortunately, that connect was, well, disconnected.
In room two, the connection between action and sound was well established by Liebing. Behind the controls, Liebing was moving with his characteristic un-Teutonic smile and showed us that when you pushed something, it did something. Something big, loud and utterly addictive. Room two is built for this sort of heads-down, tight techno, and Liebing worked the system, the space and the crowd with phenomenal energy. He had no flashy displays, but plenty of drops, with his classic looping builds to thumping bass crashes. This energy can come from the live setup or even the simplicity of mixing, but not from the application of technology for technology's sake.