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Review of A-Trak -FabricLive.45: Kanye's DJ Extradordinaire

Released by Fabric Records 4/13/09


With one look at A-Trak’s resume -- Kanye’s DJ, youngest to win the DMC Title, former member of Invisibl Skratch Piklz and The Allies -- it’s easy to say he’s one of the top DJs in the world. On FabricLive.45 he beat matches, scratches, and mixes to such perfection that he blends so many genres like nu-disco, electro-house and Detroit techno into a subtle eclectic remix of a remix of a remix.

He describes the album “as a DJ mix", which is fitting as it’s hard to imagine listening to the clubland album without trying to get down and dance. Yet this raises an important issue with a mixtape, why should one spend money on a mix versus seeing a live set? A good argument might revolve around this framework: the DJ’s skills as turntablist, his breadth of musical knowledge as a crate digger, his ability to alter and gauge the listener’s involvement so as not to become tedious or dull, and most importantly, mixing these aspects seamlessly. FabricLive.45 has its flaws, but A-Trak is too skilled and musically knowledgeable to create a dud.

From the starting gate with A-Trak’s Nike mix with “Say Whoa", the album slaps you with a heavy 4x4 beat. Never losing momentum most of the songs are less than three minutes only slowing down around the eighteenth track with Aeroplane’s remix of Friendly Fire’s “Paris". The transitions vary, sometimes indiscernible as A-Trak’s beat matching is smoother than R. Kelly’s “Bump ‘N Grind".

Yeah -- I took it back, but so does A-Trak, as he jumps through house and techno tracks from differing decades, creating what can be only called mishmash. A highlight of the album is DJ Observer & Daniel Heathcliff’s remix of Robbie River’s “Move Move” with Daniele Papini’s “Church of Nonsense", which transitions with gruff bass lines perpetuated by cow bells, reviving the familiar club hit into an edgy and energizing banger.

Yet it’s this mishmash which gets A-Trak into trouble. With the recent trend of rave and indie rock mergence in club mixing, there is an emphasis on blending the familiar with the unfamiliar, which can easily alienate the average listener. No critique can be had with A-Trak’s DJ abilities. My qualm is with his song selection. From track five to eight, A-Trak mixes a Nigerian pop remix, a Baltimore club hit, with house techno, which feels out of place sandwiched between heavier hitting bass lines like Detroit techno and a grungy DJ Zinc beat. In sum, FabricLive.45 is an overindulgent sample of A-Traks skills and knowledge, which makes for an album more digestible for music enthusiasts rather than average club goers.

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