Fabric Softeners

Middling series, ace mixes.

IT'S HARD FOR US Americans to conceive of a club so big it has its own merchandising team. But in England, any club worth its 20-pound entrance fee will have its own mix CD series. And naturally enough, the biggest clubs with the biggest CD series offer the biggest tunes in the biggest styles. But the trickle-down effect means the phenomenon affects even smaller clubs like London's Fabric. The results of their Fabric and Fabriclive series have largely been as expectedpretty middlebrow, mildly dubby midtempo bumping electro-tech-disco zzzzz. (Crap packaging, too.) But occasionally even the lamest left-handed underdog bats one out of the parkas Fabric's latest CDs have done.

Fabriclive 12, mixed by Bugz in the Attic, is perhaps the more surprising of the two. Broken beatthe West London clique of post-drum and bass producersis usually pretty damn lame, combining the worst aspects of acid jazz, neo-soul, Detroit techno, and jazzy jungle. But the Bugz keep it gangsta: a collection of dark, 2-step garage-ish tunes with massive fuck-you bass lines and a minimum of frou-frou frills. Opener "Tromboline" by Umod (get used to these names, unfortunately) pushes a brassy jazz loop down the stairs like a slinky. 4Hero's remix of Focus' "Having Your Fun" is 2-step all grown up, callow thrills replaced by jaded snootiness. Seiji's "Loose Lips," one of the scene's anthems, features a tongue-twisting femme rap and foot-confounding beat. Perhaps best of all is the Bugz remix of Vikter Duplaix's "Looking for Love," which cracks open the lover-man R&B of the original with an impossible bear fart of a bass bomb.

Fabric 13, mixed by Michael Mayer, damn well better have been brilliant, coming from the guy who released one of the best electronic dance mix CDs ever (2002's Immer, on Kompakt). Mayer's goth tendencies run unchecked here, and the opening four-song sequence is easily the most shivery and swoon-inducing of the year: Heiko Voss' robot-soul "I Think About You," the backward strings and Teutonic gloompop of Richard Davis' "Bring Me Closer," Westbam and Nena's (yes, "99 Red Balloons" Nena) "Old School Baby"the rave experience in miniature, with its Italo-house piano, electro bass line, and trance snaresand the starlight shuffle of Davis' "In the Air." From there it takes in Ricardo Villalobos' queasy shuffle, the coal black trance of Magnet, and more. By the time Voss' "I Think About You" makes a bouncy, live-funky-drummer reprise, it's as if clear shafts of sunlight are poking through bare trees. Mayer's mix is soulful and doleful in equal amounts, the perfect soundtrack to the oncoming winter.

Bugz in the Attic play the Baltic Room at 9 p.m. Sun., Dec. 7.

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