Digital Soundboy Soundsystem - FabricLive.63

Image For Digital Soundboy Soundsystem - FabricLive.63

Somewhere near the top of any self-respecting raver’s bucket list, you ought to find Fabric. On any given Saturday, amidst a burrow of heaving rooms and dimly lit, festering bars, ravers congregate to dance in the Mecca of earthly delights. Since its establishment in 1999, Fabric has hosted some of the world’s finest DJs, and since 2001, FabricLive have been bringing us a taste of what we’ve been missing out on. Artists and DJs spanning an eclectic mix of genres – from hip-hop to indie-rock, and everything in between. Earlier this month, FabricLive released its sixty-third volume, mixed by Shy Fx’s record label, Digital Soundboy Recordings.

A gaze through the FabricLive series is a scroll through the hall of fame for drum and bass heavy weights: Andy C, Goldie, DJ Hype, Fabio, High Contrast, Nosia, Commix, LTJ Bukem and DJ Marky. Discernibly absent though is the Original Nuttah, Shy Fx. Shy Fx’s seminal album, Diary of a Digital Sound Boy, is the drum and bass equivalent of Dr. Dre’s Chronic: a timeless classic you can listen to beginning to end, over and over again.

A few years after Diary of a Digital Soundboy (two to be exact), Shy Fx established Digital Soundboy Recordings. Shortly thereafter, Digital Soundboy pumped out six amazing podcasts, featuring DJ Marky, Benny Page and Breakage (amongst others). Although unique in their own ways, these podcasts embodied the Digital Soundboy style; funky bass lines, matched to mellifluous Jamaican raps (‘Ragga D&B’). It’s a tried and tested formula that even the D&B haters will admit is “a bit of alright”.

So how did FabricLive .63 compare to the style we’ve come to love from Digital Soundboy? First off, it should be acknowledged, that the sound we love shouldn’t be regarded as a sound we expect. FabricLive .63 was mixed by the Digital Soundboy Soundsystem, a trio comprising Shy Fx, Breakage and B. Traits. These artists have diverse and unique styles, and while it would be wrong to expect them all to conform, with Shy Fx on the bill, it’s not unreasonable to expect an album full of the distinct dub, reggae and rugga overtures we’ve come to love in his work.

The album starts of promisingly; an ultra-fast bongo beat complemented by a slow soothing bass riff as Nina Simone purrs “you’re nothing but a dirty, dirty, old man. You do your thinking with a one-track mind”. Unfortunately, if your mind is on track for 71 minutes of Ragga D&B, you might find this album a little disappointing. The mixing is superb, and builds up steadily to give listeners their first taste of D&B 22 minutes in, with Telepathy by Breakage.

Then, the album picks up a distinct D&B flavour; that dark, grimy D&B that only a true D&B fiend can appreciate. From then onwards the album wavers between dubstep and D&B. At track 35, Shy Fx makes his first appearance, delivering a placid dub tune, followed by a dance hall classic Pass the Dutchie. Finally, as the chorus winds up “listen to the drum and bass, listen to the drum and bass”, it’s time for a sigh of relief – a dose of soulful Ragga D&B.

D&B isn’t the sort of genre you wade around in the shallows to. You’re either all the way in, or all the way out. It’s the sort of genre people either love or they hate; those in the D&B camp are slaves to the rhythm, itching tirelessly for a taste of that delectable 4/4 tempo. Ironically, to the haters, there’s no rhythm, but simply an inaudible symphony of amorphous drum kicks and throbbing bass lines. The beauty of drum and bass (and perhaps, typical of many other electronic genres) is that it’s constantly reinventing itself. Part of what makes listening so captivating, is the ability to explore the various iterations of your genre to discover what you like. Perhaps not quite as innovative as the wheel or sliced bread, and definitely not the kind of genre you would recommend to a recovering meth head with cardiovascular disease, D&B is a genre whose various iterations have captured the hearts and minds of an emerging subculture.

While Digital Soundboy is typically associated with D&B, it’s refreshing to see the trio behind this album stepping outside of our comfort zone and experimenting with some more obscure sounds, and less classifiable artists. For those expecting something similar to Diary of a Digital Soundboy – don’t hold your breath. But, don’t let that stop you from expanding your horizons. The album showcases an impressive breadth of music, including many D&B sub-genres you might not hear at gigs.