Calibre: Fabriclive 68

Dominick Martin, who's been issuing contemporary drum'n'bass under the Calibre alias since 1998, has gradually built up a formidable discography of seven artist albums and numerous twelve-inches, EPs, and remixes, many of them on his own Signature imprint. His first-ever Calibre mix CD—by his own admission one representative of his work over the last decade—offers a sumptuous sampling of his own style as well as that of figures associated with the labels Soul:r, Exit, and Innerground such as Marcus Intalex, dBridge, and Random Movement.

One of the things that stands out immediately is the mix's structure, with Martin having given considerable thought to the selections and their sequencing (it's even formally framed with an intro and outro). A clear musical picture of Calibre comes into sharp definition over the course of the set, given the fact that fourteen of the twenty-one tracks are originals (nine) and remixes (five). His is an elegant and soulful take on the genre, one heavily attuned to musicality and less to aggression for its own sake—a warmer brand more than a hard-hitting one (though there are tracks, such as “Blazin,” that reveal a harder side). His sensitivity to sonic colour and detail also asserts itself powerfully during “Clipper Man” in its well-timed claps and plummeting bass pulse, in the tiny piano figure that elevates his remix of Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs' “Garden,” and in the horn counterpoint that graces his own “Student Music.”

The mix rages with single-minded determination for seventy minutes, and touches of traditional jazz surface now and then in the form of acoustic piano and bass lines that are threaded in amongst the motorik grooves (e.g., his remix of DJ Marky & S.P.Y.'s “Yellow Shoes”). Intalex, Random Movement, and dBridge burn up the track with the skanky “Emergency (Dub),” soulful “Down Somehow,” and thunderous “Inner Disbelief,” respectively. Vocal cuts, such as Calibre's fabulous remix of Bo Saris's “She's On Fire” (which finds the singer crooning in a manner reminiscent of Curtis Mayfield), and his makeover of SpectraSoul's “Away With Me” (crowned by Tamara Blessa's vocal), enrich the mix, too. The mix's scene-setter, DRS's “Keep The Faith,” could stand for a manifesto for the durability of the drum'n'bass genre (“Keep the faith / Hold your position / ‘Cause haters change their minds”), while Calibre's superb mix itself offers a compelling argument for the ongoing viability of the form.

June 2013