Shackleton – Fabric 55 review

Shackleton is undoubtedly one of electronic music’s most interesting and enigmatic characters. Having been there since the birth of dubstep, his elusive and shadowy presence, disregard for the media, hype and attention and obscure take on bass music have not placed him in the limelight. But in the words of Mary Anne Hobbs, “this is his time…”

Hot on the heels of the launch of his new label Woe To The Septic Heart and it’s debut release Man On A String Part 1 & 2 only last month, the Lancashire raised, Berlin based producer mixes the 55th fabric mix and in doing so cements his stamp on the series with a superb collection of predominantly unreleased tracks alongside material from now defunct Skull Disco (which he co-ran with Bristol’s Appleblim in the mid noughties), Perlon and Scuba’s Hotflush imprint. Inspired by his times at London’s flagship club, Shackleton returns to the tracklist from a set he played at fabric last year and in doing so blends dancefloor vibes with his unique, dynamic touch, focusing on atmosphere, mood and effect with masterful precision.

Abstract and enticing, the mix kicks off, rather aptly, with dubbed out roller “Come Up”, which stews in a sort of intoxicated haze of bongo drums and heady bass – a sound which is echoed again in “Visontele”. From here, we are taken through moments like the oceanic grandeur of “Operatic Waves” with disorientating narrative clips and swooshing atmospherics, via the tougher, contemplative cuts like “Negative Thoughts” and “Death Is Not Final”, with their focus on bass weight sculpting out a purposeful position. Later on we get the aforementioned “Man On A String Part 1 & 2” which changes the pace again, as we move into the frenetic rhythms of “Busted Spirit” with its sense of being possessed or haunted by another, the glitchy mutterings coming more and more into the audible range as the track progresses.

The final passage marks a return to the murky atmospherics of the beginning, with eerie vocal snatches urging us to “let go…let go…let go”, unerring tribal drums and creepy atmospherics swirling around from beneath. Short, deftly positioned one-minute sonic sketches, such as the poetically titled “Moon Over Joseph’s Burial” and “Something Has Got To Give” join the dots between tracks. Elsewhere, clearly marked interludes make clear distinctions between parts. Overall, it’s a superbly sewn together collection of tracks, which echo and interact with one another throughout the eighty-minute duration.

Belinda Rowse