Available on: Fabric Worldwide
It’s fitting that serial collaborator Jack Adams’ highest profile solo release to date would be a mix CD, given that the format allows him to pull ideas from his peers while also putting his own stamp on them. Since rebooting his career after an early run with Mad Decent, Mumdance 2.0 has been a bridge builder. He’s helped reshape both Keysound and Tectonic, the two dubstep institutions that have best adapted to London’s post-everything underground, and as a producer he’s built a substantial discography with both partner-in-grime Logos and a revitalized, techno-deconstructing Pinch. It’s an approach that paradoxically, has only strengthened his credentials as an author, as he’s left an unmistakable imprint on every track he’s touched. Even in the presence of such high profile collaborators, there’s no mistaking the Mumdance sound.
His rise as a DJ has been quieter but no less important. Through a run of cover shows on Rinse FM that culminated in a monthly spot on the station, Mumdance’s mission has seemingly been to reunite a fractured rave scene piece by piece, curating an alternate universe where experimental noise rubs shoulders with weightless grime and de-centered club tracks. In an era of micro-scenes and specialist DJs protecting their sounds like walled fiefdoms, this dedication to creating an overall narrative for the underground is both artistically liberating and thrilling to listen to. Not since Oneman’s heyday pulling together the rapidly diverging dubstep, grime and funky scenes has a London DJ connected so many disparate dots so coherently. It’s this careful curation and aesthetic rigor that gives Fabriclive 80 its sense of weight and importance – the implication that what’s going on here isn’t just important in one scene but for electronic and dance music as a whole.
The line between wildly ambitious and over ambitious is perilously thin however, and at times, it feels like Mumdance has more to say than a 70-minute CD can hold. Nowhere is this truer than the mix’s opening quarter-hour stretch of experimental music, an indulgence that makes sense as part of an loose two hour radio show, but that wears thin as a fifth of this mix’s run time. Though initially engaging, it’s a sequence that invites polite applause rather than genuine emotional connection, and the CD truly kicks into high gear with Sweet Exorcist’s Warp classic ‘Testsix’ and a stretch of 130bpm club tracks.
Centered around his own productions with Logos and likeminded dubs by producers at the edge of techno such as Acre and Untold, it’s a succinct summary of the musical universe Mumdance first explored on last year’s back-to-back mix with Pinch. With a focus on broken rhythms, druggy paranoia and textured darkness, it’s this style that is at the heart of the sound Mumdance is building, and it’s the section where his wider influences best come together as a coherent whole. While it may sound like nitpicking, it’s a sound so exciting that you’d wish he’d have spent a bit more time exploring it on Fabriclive 80, rather than dedicating so much of the opening half to the beatless intro sequence.
A few ideas dominate Mumdance’s club tracks: dystopian science fiction, raving as escapism, the open possibilities of newly-developed musical subgenres, and the physicality of hardware synthesizers and samplers. It colours the mix’s vision of raving through track titles like ‘Hall of Mirrors’ (and more explicitly on his LP with Logos: ‘Room 2 Lazer’ and ‘Bagleys’), hinting at a night out on the town that’s equal part thrills and hidden dangers. Here, Mumdance taps into a uniquely English dance music experience, drawing from the rave era as teenage coming of age soundtrack. Though Chicago and New York’s pansexual house and Detroit’s visions of futuristic elegance have been enshrined in club lore, Mumdance instead looks at the rave as a space where the boredom of suburban teenage life first collides with the mind-expanding properties of chemical drugs. It’s not as pretty and it’s sometimes scary, but damn if it isn’t fun.
From there, the mix’s second ambient stretch fares much better than the intro. Though initially bracing, in bringing the club tracks’ forward momentum to a sudden halt it both cleanses the palette ahead of the mix’s uptempo material and works on its own terms by deconstructing the previous section’s elements into abstract shapes. Once again, Mumdance’s own production takes center stage with his weightless experimentations with Logos and Rabit acting as a bridge to the mix’s second act, blending his artier ambitions with the more accessible styles at the mix’s core. It’s fascinating to see how this material works in context, as it takes a brave DJ and an adventurous audience to embrace music that takes Wiley’s devil mixes as a starting point before stretching out into the ether. To Mumdance’s credit, the segue to full-on grime is seamless, somehow merging Novelist’s bars on ‘1 Sec’ to music that could just as easily find a home in an art installation.
The final series of sublow grime classics and pre-happy hardcore anthems is a thrill, and for all of his ambitious experimentation, Mumdance is at his best when he lets loose. Separated by the jungle and garage generations, both hardcore and grime shared a fearless sense of experimentation and an unabashed love of melody. Both genres were also much maligned by dance music purists for deviating from orthodoxy and if grime has been fully rehabilitated, Mumdance’s forays into hardcore still feel transgressive over 20 years on. His selection focuses on the genre’s most emotive early moments when barely functional technology collided with wide-eyed raving. Though its confounding intensity and slapdash nature might strike the closed-minded as cheesy, it’s this material that perhaps best succeeds at what Mumdance sets out to do: to combine truly mental avant-garde sounds in a way that anyone can get down to.