Touch Not The Cat
he move from the German enclave of labels that has released the bulk of his work so far to the Toronto-based Paper Bag Records should no come as no surprise. But for a native Canadian, Fairley has enjoyed more notoriety by artists and critics outside of his homeland than within, cultivating what seems to be a much firmer relationship with the Cologne and Berlin techno axis, than some of his countrymen like Akufen or Deadbeat.
It’s a firmly North American sensibility that Fairley seems to bring to the table, however, rarely opting for the softer romantic sides of some of the Kompakt crew. Instead, Fairley’s sound is typified by heavy and overdriven basslines that take over a track quickly, establishing their dominance and making sure that the dancefloor is served generously.
That much is made clear on the previously released album opener “Nightstick”, which is a stomping shuffle track augmented by Fairley’s vocals. It’s one of a few tracks on the record that includes Fairley adding his vocal talents to the musical backing. While not much to speak of tonally, Fairley’s dispassionate voice thankfully also rarely takes away from a track and its main point: keeping you dancing.
That’s what Fairley excels at on “Prussia” weaving two interlocking electro melodies with one another or on “Top Hat” where, once again, shuffle takes center stage and embeds its pounding rhythm and adjoining bass into your brain. But it’s on tracks like “I Never Try” where Fairley really shines, utilizing a Velvet Underground pipe organ sound to glorious effect, amid a bouncing 4/4 house beat and the normal accoutrements of his rollicking tech-house or on “All On Me”, which closes the disc with whirring buzzers and a sun-kissed bass undercurrent that somehow find a common ground.
Unfortunately, it’s the only time during the proceedings that Fairley sees fit to take his foot off the accelerator for even a moment, which makes taking the totality of Touch Not The Cat a daunting one even at a relatively slim fifty minutes. Because of the nature of dance music, however, one wonders if this is even a fair quibble to level at the album. Either way, what Fairley has done is created an album that stands very much alongside recent efforts from Anthony Rother and Alter Ego as some of the finest electro-tinged electronic music to be released this year. And the fact that Fairley gives it a more rock-oriented edge than those two counterparts may perhaps make him the greatest benefactor out of those three in crossing over to different audiences. All in all, a solid effort from a solid producer.