This is the first in a series collaboration with fabric London, where The 405 will profile each contributor (and their mix) for the fabriclive series. fabric have kindly provided the photography from the mix's launch party.

Leeds-raised and London-based Harry Agius (Midland) is a natural fit for the fabriclive series. Since his first few records in 2010 he’s characterised not only the informed dynamism of the UK bass scene, but this country’s insatiable thirst for the thrill of a beat and its oxymoronic curiosity in the serenity of the beatless. As the personification of the mythological crate-digger, delighting in everything he turns his attention to, he’s flirted with smoky ambience, pulverising techno, languid deep house, and – with his greatest commercial success to date, 2016’s ‘Final Credits’ – fluorescent disco. With such ravenous dabbling, his oeuvre can be summarised by the dirtiest of descriptors in dance music; eclectic.

“I am very wary of the term Eclectic,” he acknowledges, “it’s so loaded and so subjective. I may seem “Eclectic” to some, but then very linear to others. I believe as a DJ I should always be learning, about how to contextualise music better, about how I pace my sets, and above all trying to constantly discover music. I don’t fetishise expensive or ultra rare music, if I find a record and have deep connection it doesn’t matter if it was popular 15 years ago or 5 years ago, I will always play it like it is new to me. With my recorded sets, I have always tried to try to present a varied selection of music, I think the Essential Mix last year was perhaps the most intense manifestation of that and as such acted as a summation of my career, almost like a bookend.”

For his fabriclive contribution Agius seems predicated on moving into the new. If the Essential Mix signified the end of one era, this might represent the opening to another.

“For this mix, I actually decided I wanted to try and record something quite different, something more focussed, and textural. I spent a lot of time thinking about dynamic contrast, how certain tracks complemented each other and caused tension in the mix and so personally I feel like this was a new chapter or a progression for me.”

FABRICLIVE 94 Midland Launch

The contrast in layering is palpable, and by the time he folds Daphni’s ‘Vulture’ into Tres Demented’s ‘Demented Drums’ all bets are off. This conceit peaks in the irreverence of Samo DJ’s ‘Track #3’ sliding into Mannequin Lung’s soaring ‘City Lights’ rework, but the relentless sequencing which proceeds Sugai Ken’s celestial ‘Mukashi’ nearly matches it in its carnival euphoria, spearheaded by LFO’s iconic ‘Ultra Scholl’. This is where Agius’s pedigree for eclecticism finds its muse, as techno clashes ecstatically with disco in the immediacy of contrast and dissonance in an 80 minute mix.

“I am obsessed with the idea of being able to create new music from two existing tracks and the interplay between them and so in this mix I quite liked the idea of contrasting sections where it almost feels continuously in the mix and quite hard to get your bearings juxtaposed with quicker mixes or unusual transitions, like the middle section where it breaks down totally and then restarts substantially quicker with the LFO track.”

There’s a conspicuous narrative to the mix reflective of, well, a clubnight. “For me this mix was all about atmosphere. The idea[…] was to track the arc of an unexpected night out with friends. There are points of disorientation, clarity and euphoria, and I programmed it in a way that (I hope) does this justice. The final stretch is the sound of you sitting on the tube platform, with the remnants of the night echoing around your head in the morning sun.”

Listening attentively, such an arc is wonderfully evocative; an incremental build into an assorted whirlwind of techno peaks and wilting troughs, before retreating to a satisfyingly smooth, tactfully wistful resolution. It’s not exactly reaching to suggest that the rogue night out could be to fabric itself, to which Agius holds a deep emotional attachment.

FABRICLIVE 94 Midland Launch

“It’s quite hard to overstate how much this means to me really. The Fabric CD’s were pivotal in exposing me to so much new music I had never heard as a teenager, beyond that, the whole design concept of the club has always fascinated. It was the first London Club I went to 14 years ago and I still get the same buzz walking down those stairs that I did all those years ago.”

His launch party, which accompanies each respective fabriclive release, took place last Friday (22nd September) and the photos from that night populate this article. When I asked him beforehand which tracks or remixes I should keep an ear out for, he corrected me with his DJ philosophy; “I never plan my sets, I organise my music pretty obsessively for each gig, but I am just going to see what the vibe in the crowd and in the room is. For me the best moments in room 1 have always the moments when the DJ has tested the system and used it as a tool. I remember Levon Vincent playing this almost solid bass tone one time, for about 4 minutes he just rode the pitch up and down, it was amazing and harrowing, when he finally bought in a kick drum people just lost it, like he had thrown them a life raft.”

Withdrawing to a critical perspective, the texture of the mix is impressively consistent, especially given the tracklist’s palate diversity. It ostensibly discards the traditional middle-man of the gradual transition, leaping into new sonic dimensions without jarring tonally or melodically. And there are moments of true genius; the beat-mixing of Roman Flugel’s ‘Warm and Dewy’ with Farah’s ‘Lockhead’ is so epiphanically fluid you almost squeal with delight. As a mix that tells a narrative through the contours of its musical geometry – in concept and particularly execution – it’s really quite brilliant. And while fabriclive 94 is a fantastical journey, there’s always something more substantial at play with Midland.

FABRICLIVE 94 Midland Launch

With the world in a permanent state of volatility, the obvious escapism of dance music can seem at first to be facile; but dance music is, and has always been, inherently political, and Midland is one of the most vocally political producers in the UK; and the thudding urgency of this set gives weight to the subtext behind the sequencing.

“I think that dance music has become quite safe recently, and there are a lot of people who come to it for a good time, which is fine, but it is so much more than that. It’s been really great to see a lot more fundraisers and initiatives popping up over the last few years but we could always do more. Speaking out about important issues and discussing them is important to me, but more than that, engaging with people on the other side of the divide or people who are indifferent, that’s where the real change will happen.”

Dancing is a political act, but it’s also a unifying act. Dancing is, by its nature, collective and egalitarian, and can bridge divides more sensitively than broadsheet op-eds and Twitter debates; but, as Agius notes, it demands the direct action of tangible initiatives and support systems as corroboration to balance the idealism with the hard graft. With that in mind, dance music layered with political activism is an eclecticism I can get behind.

Midland’s fabriclive mix can be purchased at the fabric store, and he himself can be found on Twitter.

fabriclive 95 will be mixed by the Austrian drum & bass titan Mefjus.