As modern Britain lurches from crisis to crisis, deeply divided and seemingly at war with its own interests, it may seem futile to look to a mix CD in search of the positives of UK life. Yet fabric presents Overmono, the first commercial mix from the Overmono brothers, takes a pretty good stab at reminding the listener of the deeply ingrained strain of multiculturalism that has made British music—and British life, in general—so rewarding for those who have embraced it.
Overmono, a fraternal duo known for their rugged techno and rave revivalism, wanted their Fabric mix to be “a nod to music scenes past and present” that would capture the feeling of South East London on a cold winter night: “Night buses with steamed up windows. Sirens in the distance.” But the album’s centrepiece, L.B. Dub Corp’s “I Have a Dream,” featuring British dub poet Benjamin Zephaniah, suggests that their intentions go beyond music. “I Have a Dream” is gloriously, necessarily unsubtle in its message of power through multiculturalism, providing the mix with a rapturous and timely focal point. While the song’s lines may be delivered with a wink (“It is written in the great book of multiculturalism that the curry will blend with the shepherd’s pie and the Afro hairstyle will return”), they feel considerably less frivolous in a country where Prime Minister Boris Johnson has compared Muslim women in burkas to “letter boxes" and members of England’s soccer team are routinely racially abused on their home turf.
Elsewhere, Overmono make their point through an incisive musical selection that plucks liberally from the last four decades of electronic music. The set’s 29 tracks run a glorious steeplechase through British musical genres, from 2-step classics (Antonio’s evergreen “Hyperfunk”) through ambient jungle rollers (Orca’s “Intellect”), techstep tear-ups (the hell’s growl of Ed Rush and Optical’s “Bacteria”), warped rave revivalism (Anz’ rainbow-colored “Morphing Into Brighter”) and other weird tendrils of the UK bass continuum (Vex’d’s snarling “Pop Pop,” a track that marks the moment where grime and dubstep collided). fabric presents Overmono also devotes space to the throbbing, thrillingly dark take on tops-off techno that has long sent British crowds into rapture, from DJ Misjah’s trance-y banger “Victim” to the grinding psychedelic loops of Surgeon and James Ruskin’s “Sound Pressure Part 3.”
Holding this all together seems a fanciful task, but Overmono manage it with aplomb, favoring the kind of swift transitions between genres that only make sense while listening; 29 tracks speed by in 65 thrilling minutes. Antonio’s “Hyperfunk” positively slinks out from under the industrial rumbling of Milanese’s “Billy Hologram”; the aquatic stomp of Plastikman’s “Fuk” tears at the belly of L.B. Dub Corp’s euphoric “I Have A Dream”; and the unsettling dancehall lurch of Equiknoxx’s “A Rabbit Spoke to Me When I Woke Up” is an inspired partner to Ed Rush and Optical’s “Bacteria,” dusting the duo’s metallic drum’n’bass with trace elements of dancehall. The mix is well sequenced, too: In the wrong hands, “I Have a Dream” could have felt a little strained in its jovial messaging; employed here after a buildup of tough, industrial funk, its heavenly melodic sweeps and chants of “multiculture” carpet-bomb the hairs on the back of your neck. Later on, Actress’ “Caves of Paradise” provides a welcome pause for breath before the coming jungle onslaught.
Overmono’s four productions on this album—three original tracks and a remix of For Those I Love’s stirring electronic eulogy “I Have a Love”—help greatly in these transitions, positioning them somewhere between UK garage, R&B, and techno, distilling the spirit of the mix into vivid three-minute flashes. “So U Kno,” the Overmono track that opens the mix, is particularly excellent: an iron-clad 2-step battleship with an irresistible hook, the steel of techno colliding against the rubbery skitter of UKG.
For all its Britishness, fabric presents Overmono is anything but parochial: There are tracks here from all over the world, while the UK productions remind us that Black music, from reggae to techno, is integral to British culture. As an insight into British music in times of crisis—and a dynamic contrast to the guitar-led wave of post-Brexit post-punk—fabric presents Overmono is Overmono’s defining statement to date.
Buy: Rough Trade
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