Shackleton Fabric 55 Review

Released 2010.  

BBC Review

A bold and galvanising mix of mostly previously unreleased material.

Chris Power 2010

Describing his process for losing himself in music, Sam Shackleton recently explained that the traditional kick and snare pattern disrupts his immersion in sound, "and it takes me a long time to build up to this state". That’s one reason why you won’t find any boilerplate boom-tish on his Fabric mix, which uses 22 tracks of his own unreleased and rearranged material to approximate his occasional sets at the London club. What you will find, along with a lot of off-beats, is an inexorable build through states of drama, tension and, occasionally, release. This is, in the best possible way, an enveloping and suffocating experience.

Shackleton, born in Lancashire and now resident in Berlin, is the most intriguing producer who emerged from the mid-00s period when dubstep was first finding popularity beyond its founding cliques. His defunct Skull Disco label (co-founded with Appleblim) forged a key link between dubstep and techno, and helped clear a lane for the two-way traffic of artists like Shed, Untold, Monolake and Scuba. The iconic Skull Disco record is Ricardo Villalobos’s epic remix of Blood On My Hands, Shackleton’s brooding response to 9/11.

Shackleton’s own music from that period owed a debt to the 1980s and 90s work of Mancunian producer Muslimgauze. That influence persists in the liberal use of goblet drum percussion and the muezzin-like flavour of certain vocal samples, but the more Shackleton produces the more he sounds only like himself. That’s why, rather than being just another mix CD, Fabric 55 feels like a full-blown successor to his 2009 album (perversely titled Three EPs) on Perlon.

This is confirmed by the fact that its strongest sections comprise new material. Following the quivering pulses of bass driving 2006’s Hypno Angel, the mix runs through an extraordinary sequence of previously unreleased productions: Visontele reprocesses vintage techno stabs as aquatic bass blurts, Blood Rhythm with Wishy Drones throws a popping beat above desolate pads that are overrun by the digital screech, sustained organ chords and glimmering sci-fi tones of Operatic Waves, before the growling sub-bass of Closeness to Nature rolls the mix into a new phase.

Fabric 55 is so well programmed that these miniature movements aren’t immediately discernible. When one does become apparent, it’s as if the album shifts into a new form to be freshly enjoyed. Its moments of light – the minimalist dancehall organ stabs on International Fires – and dark – the eerily uninflected biblical quotations on penultimate track Massacre – are emblematic of its overall effect: bold and galvanising.

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