Nine years have passed since Ben Sims made his fabric debut, tearing up the closing set in Room 2 back in November 2004. In the years since he’s become a regular fixture at the club, delivering his hydraulic strain of techno and machine funk with lethal technical ability each and every time. It feels fitting then that Sims has been asked to step up for the 73rd instalment of the hallowed fabric mix series, a request he was evidently pleased to accept:
“It’s something I very much wanted to do – it’s a great series so I’m just really happy to be on board. It’s also been a few years since I dropped a mix CD so the timing was just right too.”
While some may argue this is a long overdue call-up, it is one that certainly feels timely. Sims’ profile as a DJ and producer is at its zenith, and the muscular, uncompromising brand of techno he figureheads is enjoying something of a renaissance. A new golden era, perhaps?
“Yep I’d definitely agree with that. There certainly hasn’t been as much great music out there for a long time, probably since the mid to late 90’s. The merging of genres, the creating of new ones, new labels and artists popping up daily – this is when it’s most exciting to be DJing and collecting music.”
Arguably the toughest outing in the fabric series to date, mix 73 finds Sims manipulating a staggering 44 tracks into 70 minutes. It’s a perfectly distilled simulation of a Ben Sims club set – heavily layered with unreleased tracks and exclusive edits and executed with his trademark mixing precision. It’s a vibe he set out to achieve from the off:
“I guess it’s a tighter, more planned version of my club sets. I spent quite a while editing the tracks before mixing it. I tend to do that with quite a lot of the stuff that I play and I contacted a lot of the artists and labels personally to try and blag upfront or exclusive bits. I think the total was 18 unreleased tracks at time of press. I also featured a few of my ‘JFF’ edits, which tend to be heavily restructured versions of the tracks that I made for club sets. Obviously it takes a while to get a mix out and I really want it to still sound fresh when it drops.”
Precious few have attempted to recreate the peak-time atmosphere of a Saturday night at fabric within the spatial and temporal restrictions of a studio CD release, and it’s something Ben concedes was a challenge:
“Admittedly it is difficult to keep the energy up and have the feel of a club set when it’s just you on your tod in a dark basement studio, but I recorded it in sections and pieced it together afterwards. That way it’s more than just a recreated club set, more of a master mix really, but I could just focus on 15-20 minute sections at a time when mixing it live and keep the intensity.”
Though the general vibe is intense, the mix’s real success is in Sims’ ability to effortlessly switch mood and tone, exploring areas of dark and light while never compromising the unrelenting groove behind it. Moving from the menacing pulse of Kryptic Minds and Paul Mac’s ‘Icon’ to pumped up jack (Alden Tyrell’s ‘Wurk It’) and the deeper melodics of Floorplan/Rob Hood within the first ten minutes of the mix feels as organic as the transitions into acid and wonk that follow; Benjamin Damage’s ‘Recursion’ and L-Vis 1990’s ‘SDS5000’ are deliciously twisted detours.
Further highlights come from a mid-set 303 freak-out with JFF edits of Donnie Tempo and Chicago Skyway, and a blistering finale that climaxes in the demented amen choppery of Special Request’s ‘Broken Dreams’. The latter section sees Sims drawing from the more caustic realms of his arsenal; Fokus Group’s ‘Nut Nut’ is the mix’s most punishing moment and the Clouds anthem ‘Chained To A Dead Camel’ is amongst Ben’s personal highlights:
“The Clouds monster – it never fails to amuse me just how mental people go to that. It would have been rude not to include it. There are a few things on there that are staples of my set right now – the Donnie Tempo cut in particular. Obviously I love all of them or they wouldn’t have made the cut, but I’d say the Trevino remix is a big standout as it’s got that ‘sounds like a classic the first time you hear it’ vibe. Plus the Sandrien track – I had the vocal stuck in my head for a week after she played it to me.”
This is a relentlessly forward-thinking mix. Its wealth of unreleased material and alchemy of new sounds within the techno diaspora prove that, but as Sims explains, it is a release rooted in passion not passing trend:
“I’m not focusing too much on current sounds, trends or fads. I just wanted to showcase the artists and labels I’m playing, and a lot of those are new generation names, which is great but I didn’t want it to be a “hey, look at me, I’m down with the kids” mix. I’m just supporting the music I love and believe in. There are plenty of heroes and veterans on there too.”
Bringing the Ben Sims/fabric story full circle, the release launches in Room 2 at the club this Saturday November 16th. Sims is joined by fabric resident Terry Francis, and Luke Slater will perform live as Planetary Assault Systems. Ben has also put together a 30-minute promo mix in advance of the launch party, which is available to stream above. What can we expect on the night?
“I’ve actually made a point of steering away from playing much of the stuff on the mix CD, especially the exclusives, so expect even more new material, fresh edits and some new remixes – I’ve literally just finished a Truncate one. Plus a sprinkling of machine funk from years gone by. Hopefully I get a chance to go long and really dig deep. Looking forward to it!”