[…continued from last post]
“Streetplayer” was a very hardy track, since it went under the remix knife here and laughed off all attempts to drive it off the rails with the new elements woven into its sturdy DNA. French sound bites kicked it off, appropriately enough. Then that bass line began; abetted by cavernous percussion effects and Bollywood beat/vocal samples. All within the first 30 seconds and the track managed to impose its essence through it all. New emphasis for the rhythm guitar also shone through the mix. then it began cooking with the essential groove of the track with the vocoded refrain.
New rhythms came and went in the middle of the track, which remained impervious to it all. The difference in the bass EQ at the 4:35 point where a maladroit edit occurred was the only loss of face thus far. The mix was five minutes over before Harris’ vocal manifested. At that point the song played out as normal.
“Move On” was a monster here at over ten minutes in length. Held had fun jamming with the intro rhythms looped and layered for as long as he wanted to into almost something else. Something as hypnotic as ever, but decidedly different. Ninety seconds in it clicked into place and the tease was over. At 4:38 it veered off into new zones of dub with squelchy synths and new beats filtering in, but with the spotlight going to the bass guitar. Then three minutes later it resurrected the slapback frenzy of “Mutant Dance Move” until the final fade, where the track broke down into chaos..
“You Only Left Your Picture” was the least affected cut here, with the mix balance and EQ altered to give the track a more ghostly presence. Heard as if through sheer curtains billowing in the wind. Not quite of this earth. The big phasing into the middle eight was almost carried through the entire track. It took something away from the big climax following the middle eight where the track was still phased in its shroud of psychedelia; robbing the climax of its emotional potency. And there was a split second glitch at 4:38 that jarred my ears.
For the last 20+ years I have been dreaming and scheming to make a box like this; devoted utterly to the best white funk album I’ve ever heard. To that end, I began buying every possible Fashiøn release I could obtain over 20 years ago, when a box like this first became a glimmer in my eye. I got the 12″ singles. Then the 7″ singles. Then the US promo 12″ singles. Then I began eyeing DJ pool mixes and further obscurities. Technically, the sole reason why this box beat my “Re-Fabricated” box was that I still have not gotten the Razormaid issue “Class-X Four” [RM-CX-4] with the track on it. Even now it’s still too pricey for online purchase. I generally tend to buy Razormaid discs in stores at somewhat bearable prices but then it’s down to the luck of the draw, and I need to act sooner than later on this issue. Finally, it was only several years back when I finally discovered the Dave Harris 1987 redux of “Love Shadow!!” Talk about a late in the game shocker.
Having absorbed the new box thoroughly over the last month of heavy listening, it’s a curious thing. The mastering itself sounded excellent. The album was always warm and analog sounding, even where the newly emergent digital technology poked its nose into the picture. That came down to the engineering and production footprint of Zeus B. held and his engineer Martin Hömberg. Their sonic footprint was to make of this album a luxuriant blend of oiled teakwood and black leather styling, with the occasional frisson of chromium to illuminate the darkness.
“Fabrique” really seemed to be more a part of the late 70s instead of the early 80s; an era that tended towards a somewhat brittle sound, owing to the taste for all things shiny and digital. Which is why I probably gravitate to this album so strongly. I have the 2001 Cherry Red reissue of the 1990 Arista CD of “The Height Of Fashion.” It sounded fine. We can see the waveform of the song “Move On” as shown below. There are peaks to the wave at 0 dB but most of the music rarely goes above -6 dB of peak.
This new box was been remastered but is thankfully not aboard the brickwall train. As shown below with the same track from the new box, there had been a light touch of compression to give the music a touch more impact. Note the volume levels of the intro which is no longer as timid as the older CD would have you hear. But not so much that detail is obliterated, and the dreaded ear fatigue sets in. Throughout the box the presence and detail offered up are the best that this music has ever sounded.
Do I think any of this has been mastered form vinyl? I don’t think so. The level of detail and presence to this music is too hot to be even a best of breed vinyl rip. Yet, there was a click at 1:22 into the track “Alternative Playback [Full Frame].” Could that point to vinyl provenance? Perhaps. The wave transient looks like a typical vinyl pop, but for any of this music to be vinyl rips, I’m just not hearing the telltale signs. One: it sounds too good for that. There’s simply too much power and detail reaching my ear. Two: while I would say that NR has been used for tape hiss [there’s nothing here to speak of], it has not been used for surface noise reduction.
I do this all the time. I know the tradeoffs you pay for that sort of bargain. NR works by interpolating both in and out of phase information to target the noise and leaves telltale fingerprints at low sound levels; always on a fadeout. When I use NR, I might seek to face a track a second [or two] early to avoid these artifacts manifesting [that is to say, cheating]. I’m hearing none of that tomfoolery happening here. Three: the fact that there’s a new, previously unreleased version of “Something In Your Picture” on disc three means that it had to come from a master tape. No way could it be from an acetate. And if the production had access to that, then it follows that all of this was from a master tape. As for that stray click, that could be caused by static on the master, though I wish that it had been easily attended to during the mastering phase. Alas…
That was a minor hiccup for me. As was the appearance of “Streetplayer-Mechanik [Audio Extra]” instead of “Mutant Mix Mechanik” was the kind of error that always happens when mastering a set like this. I know that from bitter experience. But in my case, I can always fix it and burn a new CD, even as costly as MAM-A archival discs are. At the very least, “Mutant Mix Mechanik” was also on this disc I had, albeit under the name “Street Mechanik.” But that doesn’t help those without the earlier disc. So caveat emptor. As I said early on, for me the biggest nagfactor in this set was the decision to fade “Dressed To Kill [Double Dub]” instead of letting it end on tthe magnificent cold ending as it always had. The presence of almost imperceptibly slight cross fades between some of the tracks on Face 3 was a slight curiosity, but nowhere near a buzzkill. I sort of like having an almost imperceptible flow to it all even though I consider boxes of music like this to be reference objects. The fact that it was used randomly between some tracks and not others was a head-scratcher.
I suppose that the big splash here was the MMXIX disc that was Face 4. This constituted the first “new” material from this project. Apart from the “Something In Your Picture [Alternative Album Mix].” My misunderstanding up front was that it was a “live” CD from a one-off gig that Harris + Held had in 2019, but maybe that would have been more interesting. These were just post-modern remixes of the “Fabrique” tracks. Some decent, but others perfunctory. While I was happy to have this material added to this box on a glass mastered CD since I had missed the 100 CD-R copies sold prior to this box, I was also happy not to have spent the cash on the hard to get CD-R. Harris + Held have said that they intend to make new music going forward as Fabrique Global, and that will hopefully prove to be of greater interest to me. I know that I’m a big enough fan of Held to buy anything with his name on it.
The bottom line for me was that “Fabrique De Luxe” was not perfect, but it is the best there will probably ever be for this album. And Sweet Mother McCree it was actually on CDs! Having dropped three figures on this matte black fetish object for fans of “Fabrique” was invariably a huge buzz for me. I was all prepared to make my version of this box [and may yet do that, having invested considerably thus far] but once I heard from commenter brynstar that this was in the works [four years ago], I awaited the finished project patiently. We know how much time it takes for a project of this scope. Especially since it is “real” one not one of my personal indulgences. Hell, my own projects can take even longer! The last time I checked, I started buying what I needed for my own Fashiøn project 20 years ago.
If you are asking yourself “should I buy this” I can only say that if the idea of a matte black flight case CD boxed set of god [BSOG] with precision cut foam inserts and a Monastically packaged set of four CDs with everything that Arista released for this album campaign quickened your pulse, then you are in the target audience, and should buy. Two 7″ mixes are not here, but “Mutant Move” 7″ was simply a shorter edit of “Mutant Dance Move.” “Let’s Play Dirty” was an edit of “Let’s Play Dirty [Centrefold]” with a few bars here and there clipped from the mix. I can live with just the long, luxuriant mix. The most crucial 7″ mix was definitely here for “Love Shadow.”
But even if you are rolling your eyes at the notion of $112 [plus not insubstantial shipping from the UK] the market has spoken and it is now possible to buy the four CDs ala carte! The single CDs are £12.00/$15.00 per disc [though in the US Face 2 [“Fabrique Cassette Remixes”] is $16.00. That brings the costs down considerably. Any single CD signed by Dave Harris is $35.00 per disc. At the bare minimum, even budget conscious Fashiøn fanatics need the first three discs here! I was happy to get the Full Monty since every Fashiøn record I have bought [apart from the “Height Of Fashiøn” CD] was a used record, and after all of these years in awe of this achievement, I am more than down with sending $112 where it will [finally] benefit the artist. Goodness knows, that this music has certainly benefited me in the last 40 years!
Because ultimately, we are talking [a lot] about an album and its attendant singles that struck a place in the continuum between godlike middle-period JAPAN and the jamming Brit-Funk achievement of Level 42 at their very finest. To me this album really exists at the rarefied intersection that would exist between “Gentlemen Take Polaroids” and the always amazing “Hot Water.” Exquisite synth jazz chops courtesy of the band and producer Held, and the machine funk groove that could last for days that Harris’ songs explored magnificently. I only hope that Covid-19 hasn’t totally scuttled the notion of Harris and Held working on new music as Fabrique Global because I’m very curious to hear what these two might do 40 years later.