18.03.2011, Words by Charlie Jones

Pearson Sound/Ramadanman FabricLive 56

Flex is a brilliant word. It seemed to resurface around autumn last year, though Ice Cube’s been saying it for years. “International flex!” you’d read people joke when they went abroad. “Just … flexing” you’d hear out and about. It means something like showing off, I suppose. Like the best slang, it’s vaguely onomatopoeic, describes something not quite adequately described, and fits something of the moment perfectly.

Around the time I was cottoning on to this great little language slug, David Kennedy, or Ramadanman as he was then known, or Pearson Sound as he is now calling himself, was recording the wonderful Void 23 with Appleblim. Operating since 2006 and with almost 15 releases on labels including Soul Jazz, Swamp 81, Hessle Audio (the label he runs with Ben UFO) and a bunch of others, he’s slowly become something of a centre of the scene. Just 23 years old, he’s the sort of guy that when he calls people up about doing a record, they start shaking, as Blawan said in a revealing moment in his interview with Dummy. Now he’s stepped up to mix the 56th FabricLive, and whatever flex is, this mix CD has it.

The numbers tell half the story. At 30 tracks, it’s one of the longest Fabric mixes to date, with an average time of a hurried two minutes. 10 of the songs are his. Too many to be called a sprinkling, not enough to qualify as an artist album in its own right like Ricardo Villalobos’s Fabric 36. Tellingly, only a few are originals. In one perfect “Sorry, did I mention … ?” moment, he name-droppingly sticks on Carl Craig’s remix of Void 23.

A bad thing? God no. It’s welcome when you see the tracklist and realise that as a CD, FabricLive 56 offers as perfect a summary of this disorientating, dispersed, after-dubstep scene as exists. Mala? On. Julio Bashmore, Pinch, Pangea? On, on, on. Julio Bashmore’s biggest song gets on, Joy Orbison’s down twice, and even Burial is used for a couple of minutes. Night Slugs get four songs – including two versions of Girl Unit’s IRL and my favourite track on the record, Jam City’s post-apocalyptic G-funk Night Mode. It feels like a Mini driver beeping another as they pass on the motorway. This post-dubstep scene has been called impossible to describe so many times it’s beyond a cliché, so it’s refreshing that David Kennedy has actually stood up, taken the bull by the horns, and provided a decent summation of this current gaseous spirit in music.

It’s the things around the core continuum that are just as important to look at: Tiyiselani Vomaseve’s Vanghoma from Honest Jon’s wonderful ‘Shangaan Electro’ collection of South African new wave is one of the most joyful moments of the album. Levon Vincent’s Late Night Jam and Addison Groove’s Chicago-by-way-of-Bristol juke track are proof of the sound’s unique ability to absorb wild outside influences and turn them into bracing new strands. And though this jumping from tone to tone can feel a little exhausting at times, it’s good that it’s embraced.

For all the confidence of the mixing and programming, there’s a shyness about these tracks. One of the best pieces of writing on music in recent years was Kev Kharas’s Loop article on the rise of subjective club music, and this is the thread that ties these 30 tracks together. For every track on this record – whether it’s the elegant glitches of A Made Up Sound or the rough energy of Die Barbie Musik Kollective – exists in its own discursive world. On Joe’s Claptrap, say, the thrill of hearing comes not from outside, existent facts, but something that you bring to the track. The tracks are mixed so quickly – sometimes even layered on top of each other or bars teased out in the blink of an eye – it can feel more like a series of brief moments, flecks of sound appearing and disappearing. They have all flex, sure, but they only exist fleetingly, happy at night but scared of the light. The pleasure of this record is in this balance – it’s as ballsy a mix as Fabric have ever put out, of the most deeply sensitive music around.


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