New York deep house don Levon Vincentís turn in the London institutionís mix series, Fabric 63, is dark. Cutting a clutch of his own new tracks with those of a small but brilliant group of associates, Vincent rolls through the CD at a stately pace, the tracks coming off so smooth you wonít notice how shadowy it is for many listens. Vincent now lives in Berlin, while his peers remain on the eastern seaboard ó DJ Qu, Black Jazz Consortium, Joey Anderson, JM De Frias, Anthony Parasole are the others that show up in this mix. Despite being grouped under the New York deep house tag, their tracks could easily be taken as techno, owing as much to the 3 a.m. k-hole vibes as to Vincentís fondness for Rolandís Space Echo delay. DJ Quís preference for ďdeep houseĒ and Levon Vincentís comments about the mysticism of the crew ó both underline the fact that electronic musicís elective affinities can help reveal qualities we wouldnít perceive from the music alone.
What the listener gets here is an overview of a geographically dispersed scene (with Jus-Ed in Connecticut, DJ Qu in New Jersey, and so forth) whose spiritual center is undoubtedly New York, though itís more of an idea than a place of residence. With a mix like Fabric 63, context enables a deeper appreciation but can also get in the way of a more visceral one. The process of evaluating a mix is intensely dialectical anyway, and resolution is tantalizingly out of reach in Vincentís case. On the one hand, an intense subjectivity is required ó the vibe is either to your taste or it isnít. On the other, thereís the fact that we listen to mixes in part to learn, and that suspending judgment is necessary to get a bigger picture of whatever the mix draws out of the selections. Sometimes it turns out the mix doesnít have much to say in the first place, but in spite of its tight focus, thatís not the case here.
Fabric 63 requires patience; even though heís the producer of seven of the mixís fifteen tracks, the story Vincent is telling is an ambitious one, even if heís sticking mostly to friends. Youíll find yourself more than halfway through the mix before a track really sticks out (the concluding run that starts with Vincentís ďThe EndĒ and goes through his gorgeous ďRainstorm IIĒ is its most memorable), but the preliminary work Vincentís done to get there makes it that much more rewarding. Still, the mix is more or less an extended plateau, with graceful and intelligent lateral moves and only a few rare peaks and valleys, but these, too, are foreshortened by cool shade, a shadowplay that levels everything to a mysterious, nocturnal feel.
Because Fabric 63 doesnít build up and break down in familiar cycles, Vincentís free to include two tracks ó Joey Andersonís "Earth Calls" and Vincentís "Fear" ópretty much in their entirety, not that youíd necessarily notice. Wherever they live, this group of producers is feeding off of the same energy, rooted in the same past and refusing nostalgia for the New York that was ó even if they were actually there and deeply shaped by it. What they create here, together, isnít about restoring the present to past glory, itís far more imaginative than that, something theyíve been hardwired to do but donít take for granted. Itís a grower, not a shower. Given enough time, itíll take you there.