Very few people have an exceptional ear for DJing—certainly far fewer than the number of people who manage to earn a living from it. Baby Ford isn't one of those special selectors, and it's never been more obvious than on fabric 85. The Londoner's entry to the long-running series is one of the most lacklustre official mixes in recent memory. Recorded live in one take, it's full of clunky transitions, aggravating disruptions in energy and absurd selections, all signs of a DJ out of his depth.
There's obviously far more to DJing than technical proficiency, and many of these missteps would be swiftly forgotten in a different setting. But on a high-profile project such as this, they seem careless. The mix is a far cry from the more streamlined efforts of some of Ford's peers (Zip, Rhadoo, Raresh and Petre Inspirescu), who used a similarly on-the-fly method to put together their fabric mixes. It's a little disconcerting to see Ford on such unsure footing (after all, he's made some of the most iconic house music of all time), but the situation reflects a prevailing trend in house and techno: popular and highly skilled producers staking their claim as DJs despite not being particularly invested in the craft.
fabric 85's opening is smooth enough, if a little abrupt. A minimal medley (including Thomas Melchior's Perlon classic "Feel Sensual") takes us through to "Boompty Boomp Theme," a feel-good Derrick Carter track from 1999. The set nosedives shortly afterwards, with one of the most painful transitions you're likely to hear from a professional DJ. It's badly timed and cluttered, which means the mood has already taken a huge hit by the time Carter's track slips away, right about when we arrive at the first breakdown in Joy Orbison's "Elipsis." That track would, at best, raise a few eyebrows at many of the parties Ford plays at, and at worst clear the dance floor.
The midsection features a string of percussive house cuts. All are fine, but a series of long and excessive breakdowns disrupt the mix's groove every few minutes. The tracks themselves—Pal Joey's "Spend The Night," Fatdog's "Bump" and Doublet's "Paradise Village"—are charming, but Ford's lack of regard for the set's flow is baffling. The mix's final third is steadier (though that probably has a lot to do with letting Alex Celler's bass-heavy "Haz" run for a full eight minutes), but when the set's most enchanting moment hits—a forthcoming Baby Ford remix of OCH's "Time Tourism"—you can't help but feel fabric 85 was a wasted opportunity.
But fabric 85 is a sign of the times. It's virtually impossible to live off making house and techno these days, which means producers who'd be better off (and perhaps happier) making beats in their studio are thrust into the club environment. Taking shots at a legend like Baby Ford is not easy, but his heart was either simply not in it, or he's blind to what makes a DJ set work. (Given the kind of artists he keeps company with, I assume it's the former.) Whatever the reason, this is neither Baby Ford's nor fabric's finest hour.
Mon / 11 Jan 2016
01. Baby Ford & The Ifach Collective - Carpe
02. Nicola Kazimir - Fine Girl
03. Dimbiman - Lava
04. Melchior Productions Ltd. - Feel Sensual
05. Derrick L. Carter - Boompty Boomp Theme
06. Joy Orbison - Ellipsis
07. Jonno & Tommo - Close The Door
08. Pal Joey - Spend The Night
09. Fatdog - Bump
10. Doublet - Paradise Village
11. Julian Alexander - Undrgr
12. Alex Celler - Haz
13. OCH - Time Tourism (Baby Ford Remix)
14. Ion Ludwig - I Don’t Know How To Say
15. Baby Ford - NY015