Ben UFO, Fabriclive 67


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This mix is a bit of a milestone, really. To be inaugurated into the canon of Fabric’s commercially released DJs certainly represents the movements Ben UFO and Hessle Audio have made in all sorts of positive and surprising directions. Making his name through unassuming passion and dedication within the small, web-connected diaspora of non-London dubstep fanatics early in the genre’s genesis, he could now be described as one of the most influential DJs in the UK. His trajectory through dubstep, garage, UK funky, house, techno, and all sorts of cross-genre hybrids, has been shared by thousands of listeners and DJs alike. His hallmark has seemingly been a belief in the power of the DJ to transcend genre. Beginning as one of those feted selectors of the nascent dubstep scene, like Oneman and Braiden, who blended whatever worked, whether 4/4, halfstep, or 2-step, Ben Thomson’s mission statement has been to intertwine strands of modern dance-music culture that have sometimes threaded together, and sometimes unraveled.

For the last few years, his selection has been as closely affixed to European and American house and techno as to UK club sounds. Muscular, floor-driven house and techno does form the meat of the tracklist here, but the winding path of this mix still expresses that radiant and celebratory freedom to play what you like. As a curatorial effort, Thomson’s mix exults, unsettles, and satisfies: bare, fleshy tracks for dancers; caustic textures; grayscale surfaces, and very sparingly, gasping and dramatic melodic freefalls. Technically there is a gratifying understanding of the fertile zone in which the adept and adoring DJ can unite divergent sounds. Rhythm is the core, the intention, and really the whole point — the rest is just extra.

Opening with a feeling of nauseating anticipation in the ominous purr of Mix Mup’s “Before” (Dub), Thomson quickly segues into a sticky and difficult modern house track by singular New York producer Delroy Edwards. When the distorted battering of Peverelist and Kowton’s “Raw Code” (the next Hessle release) strafes unnervingly into the mix, and we are dropped into the pair’s double rhythms of early, broken-beat dubstep and viral-sounding techno, it’s clear that Thomson has no pretensions to “smoothness” — too often the downfall of high-profile DJs. Tim “Love” Lee’s itchy, block-party drumwork chatters for just a minute or two before it is completely caved in by the bulging form of another Hessle hit, Elgato’s “Zone.”

Thomson’s method of including his own label’s tracks in fact testifies to the strength of the Hessle output, as much as to his own skill and aesthetic sensitivity. It goes without saying that the records he released are never opportunistically shoehorned in. Instead, it rather feels that through the diversity and inventiveness of the Hessle Audio material, as well as the contributions from artists who debuted on the label, such as Joe and Blawan, each track naturally finds its moment in the mix; from the warped space and jutting, angular series of impacts in Pearson Sound’s recent “Clutch,” to Bandshell’s “Perc,” a mystical, lost-sounding piece that pulses with a sub-rooted, Mala-esque momentum while churning factory noise rotates unnervingly overhead. Indeed, this sequence of Hessle-related tracks near the end of the mix is particularly inspiring in the name of usurping generic continuity, as Bandshell’s off-kilter beat is displaced by Blawan’s hammering brutality, before Pangaea’s fuzzy, backwards-looking dubstep sprawls out, and finally Joe’s un-categorizable “Studio Power On” breathes a satisfying sense of easy space back in.

What’s even more exciting is the hyperactive way Thomson makes links between sonically dispersed rhythms and atmospheres, at times so rapidly that it’s impossible in one listen to really take in the ideas in each track, and the overall connectivity that the mix expresses. One example is the transition from Fluxion’s abstractly dubbed beat pulse, through the bustling, yearning “Consexual,” a futuristic Detroitist garage cut by Minimal Man from 1993, which loses its balance into Jam City’s stark and hyper-real sheen of trilling synthesizers and collaged drums, steadied again by the whispered mantra and jittery groove of Herbert’s “Took Me Back.” I found myself overwhelmed, and refreshingly disorientated. All in all, this is a studied, deep-dug expression of inspiring rhythmic obsession, curated and executed with a daring and adept understanding of the power of contrast and dynamics.

LibraryUk  on January 15, 2013 at 7:49 AM

Nice reveiw, its a big cd!

Jimbob McSlaughterhouse  on January 15, 2013 at 12:27 PM

Second the above comment. Got to get myself a copy of this. Ben UFO can do no wrong imo.

Gwyn Thomas de Chroustchoff  on January 15, 2013 at 6:27 PM

Thanks! It’s immense… one of the best mixes I’ve ever heard!

Amateur_Hour  on January 16, 2013 at 3:27 AM

Yes, it is an amazing mix.

Quickinho  on January 17, 2013 at 1:56 AM

Very much looking forward to this after that review. Good work GTDC

Gwyn Thomas de Chroustchoff  on January 21, 2013 at 10:35 AM

Thank you

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