With those bubbling toms and relentlessly ragged samples firmly fixed in the pantheon of modern dance music, juke and footwork are well and truly here to stay, thanks in no small part to Planet Mu Records and its tireless quest to showcase the authentic Chicago sound to a wider audience. With plenty of compilations, singles and artist albums getting notched up from the key protagonists in the scene, it’s now the turn of Traxman to step up to the plate with his album. Compared to some of his younger compadres, Traxman has been at it for a long time, with roots in Dance Mania 12”s in the nineties among other harder to trace offerings.
Much has been written in recent months about the meteoric rise of Footwork. What was previously a parochial form of street music native to Chicago and a mutant offshoot of the Ghetto House/Juke strain has become something of a global phenomenon in the underground music scene. Word has spread through YouTube and the blogosphere, but the reason why this curious sub-genre has risen to the fore is perhaps largely, if not solely, due to Planet Mu owner and avant-garde bass music ambassador Mike Paradinas’ involvement in bringing the sound to the UK. Having released flagship producer DJ Nate’s debut album Da Trak Genius and his Hatas Our Motivation EP earlier this year, Planet Mu now heralds the release of the first official Footwork compilation, Bangs & Works Vol 1.
The 25-track album kicks off with DJ Elmoe’s “Whea Yo Ghost At, Whea Yo Deadman” – a track which sets the tone for the entire venture. Jumping straight in at the deep end, it feels like you are stuck in an echo chamber with a stuttering soundtrack on repeat. The stifling claustrophobia reaches a peak in haunting tracks like RP Boo’s “Total Darkness” and DJ Nate’s “Ima Dog” where distorted vocal samples incite a state of growing insanity. Treacley, syncopated rhythms and fidgety breaks feature strongly in these tracks, with sounds stuck in their own self-perpetuating cycles. On Tha Pope’s “All The Things” a distraught palette of tones is used, with pitched up, darkly comical vocals exacerbating the dizzying atmosphere created throughout the album.
That’s not to say that Trouble, Nate, Diamond, RP Boo and co. don’t have fun – the innately playful nature of the music becomes apparent in the rock n roll motif of “Mosh Pit”, the pre-programmed, ritualistic chant of “Eraser” in which there is a battle between voices “live and let die” vs “no holds barred…burn burn!” and the more accessible sounds of Traxman’s – “Compute Funk”. When you listen to what could be termed the “softer” side of Footwork you can begin to appreciate how the sounds have filtered down the genre ladder and influenced swathes of contemporary producers of the Ramadanman and Girl Unit sensibility. A challenging but fascinating listen.