When was the last time you experienced Futureshock? I mean really experienced it — affectively, right down to your core. For my part, I got a small dose at the start of the year from James Blake’s self-titled debut. Sure, it had a history; Blake’s indebtedness to dubstep (even bordering on a kind of purism) has been well noted. But that doesn’t change the fact that his clever deployment of both bass and (particularly) space meant that pop sounded different now. This, suddenly, seemed to be the future. And sure enough, it was. So much so, in fact, that the future quickly began to sound dull again: present and, soon enough, altogether past.
Right now, just about everywhere on the planet other than in certain key enclaves in Chicago, footwork seems like the sound of the future. Strictly, it’s a kind of dance music. Or at least “that’s what it is in Chicago’s converted warehouses and rec centers,” as TMT’s Mr P recently put it, “where combatant footworkers form circles and take turns battling, dozens-style, with dazzlingly complex foot patterns.” Outside of such rarefied circles, however, nothing else sounds so Fresh, so New, so Vital, or so Different, even to the point of being Unpalatable — not Unintelligible necessarily, but literally Indecipherable at the level of the body.
In other words, if footwork induces a profound Futureshock, it’s because so many of its listeners simply don’t know what to do with it (yet). This is a sound, after all — a 21st-century audioscience, a mutant manifestation of what Kodwo Eshun calls the Futurhythmachine — that seems to have been spawned in a kind of splendid isolation: proof, finally (Reynolds be praised!), that yes they do still make scenes like they did in the good ol’ days.
By the time Planet Mu’s stellar Bangs & Works Vol. 1 burst onto the Hipster International’s collective radar late last year, the best and most confronting thing about footwork was that they (we?) weren’t immediately hip to it. How could we be? We’d been separated from the scene that birthed it by the tyranny of a cybergeography that seems to give us instant access to any music, any time, any where… but not quite, at least not in the way that a genre like footwork seems to demand. We can’t, after all, dance like this, can we? And when we listen on headphones, it can easily seem as if we’re somehow missing the point. This is Utilitarian music for which many of its listeners are yet to find a utility. Not that its makers give a shit, of course. And nor should they.
And so to Vol. 2, curated again by Brightonian Mike Paradinas, and this time showcasing a bunch of fresh new Chicago talent (Young Smoke, Jlin, DJ MC) as well as many of the stalwarts of the scene (DJ Spinn, DJ Rashad, DJ Clent). It’s good. Very good. Just as likely to be confronting to the uninitiated listener as the first volume and a genuinely exciting addition to the collection of those who have been already following. Like B McGhee, I’m loathe to either describe or theorize it, in a way. It feels like an act of appropriation. Except I’ve got Eshun ringing in my ears.
The following is from his extraordinary (and difficult) book on so-called “Black Atlantic Futurism,” More Brilliant Than The Sun, published back in 1998. “Allegedly at odds with the rock press, dance-press writing also turns its total inability to describe any kind of rhythm into a virtue,” Eshun writes. “You can see that the entire British dance press […] constitutes a colossal machine for maintaining rhythm as an unwritable, ineffable mystery. And this is why Trad dance-music journalism is nothing more than lists and menus, bits and bytes: meager, miserly, mediocre.” We’ve come a long way since 1998, it seems to me, and not just in Britain, but the rhetoric of ineffability — as a kind of magical music-crit get-out-of-jail-free card — remains strong. So here’s me having a go at theorizing footwork anyway. Or rather, here’s how footwork’s been theorizing me.
Divorced from the “streets,” the context, the “battles,” the people, and “scene” that produced it, I can’t shake the feeling that Bangs & Works Vol. 2 is all about time. Not time in the way that the hauntologists and hypnagogues are interested in it; not time as in history, or the lack of it (though, what with footwork’s considerable dependency on samples, there is certainly an element of that going on); but I’m talking about time as in duration: speed, velocity, meter.
Let me be clear. I’m not just saying that footwork is fast. That’s obvious and also not particularly interesting. What I’m saying is that footwork really fucks with your expectations in relation to the divisibility of musical time itself. The jettisoning of house’s reliable 4/4 kick — the one that juke remains wedded to — is key in this respect. With footwork, there’s pulse, yes, but it can be hard as hell to put your finger on. And invariably, the moment you feel like you’ve got it, it’s gone again: like a ghost in the wind. Footwork isn’t just syncopated (like jazz). It doesn’t just stutter (like wonky). And it’s not just that it’s regularly ‘de-quantised’ (also like wonky). Footwork is microscopic. It’s not interested in 4ths or 8ths or even 16ths at all. Footwork’s basic unit of rhythm is the nano.
That, it seems to me, is partly why footworkers dance the way they do. That’s why the somatechnics it draws upon are so fricking small and intricate. And it’s also why Bangs & Works Vol. 2 makes for such a confronting listen. It completely messes with our received notions of musical duration. The relevant markers here aren’t bars or beats; they’re each and every one of those frenetic midi snare hits.
On a track like Traxman’s “Brainwash,” the interruption of the listener’s expectations in relation to meter is so utterly complete that it feels almost as if pulse has been completely discarded. Except it hasn’t. It’s just been reduced. Same with a track like Tha Pope’s “When You” (in spite of the intro) and a whole bunch of others. In other words, despite what your body may be telling you, there’s definitely meaning to this ‘madness.’ It’s just that if you’re looking for a toe-tapping 4/4 or a coma-inducing skank in two, you’re not going to find it here.
There’s a sense in which James Blake and footwork are polar opposites of the same (dis)continuum then. Blake (and The xx and a few other UK post-dubsteppers) are interested in space, whereas Chicago’s footwork scene is interested in compression. And so perhaps it’s not surprising that Blake et al. are all about vinyl, whereas the majority of footwork artists are perfectly happy with a 192 kbps MP3. Where on a release like “Order/Pan,” Blake’s interested to see just how wide he can stretch musical space; Bangs & Works Vol. 2 is mostly an exercise in squeezing it.
It’s fitting in a way. Two Futuremusics, from opposite sides of the Atlantic, both interested in time. This is perhaps the axis on which the battle for our bodies will increasingly be fought. After all, as Eshun puts it, “The bedroom, the party, the dancefloor, the rave: these are the labs where the 21st C nervous systems assemble themselves, the matrices of the Futurhythmachinic Discontinuum.”
01. RP Boo - Heavy Heat02. Jlin - Erotic Heat03. DJ Earl - Hit Da Bootz04. DJ Rashad & Gant-Man - Heaven Sent05. DJ Metro - Burn Dat Boi06. DJ Clent - Ball’em Up07. DJ MC - Y Fall08. DJ Spinn - Crazy ‘n’ Deranged09. Traxman - Funky Block10. DJ Rome - Showtime11. DJ T-Why - Finished12. Tha Pope - When You13. Boylan - Bullet Proof Soul14. Jlin - Asylum15. DJ T-Why - Orbits16. DJ Roc - Get Buck Juice17. Traxman - Brainwash18. DJ Clent - DJ Clent #119. DJ Metro - Smak My Bitch Up20. Young Smoke - Space Muzik Pt.321. DJ T-Why - Juice22. DJ Solo - What Have You Done23. Young Smoke - Psycho War24. Young Smoke - Wouldn’t Get Far25. DJ Metro - Tekno Bangz26. RP Boo - Off Da Hook
― flopson, Monday, 16 January 2012 15:26 (2 years ago) Permalink
id be interested in someone explaining the diff between juke & footwork, i have a group of friends who are really into this stuff (altho moreso the machinedrum-axis than chicago) & call it footwork. i had the impression juke was more clubby/dancey?
i've been listening to tonnes of this stuff lately. something so addictive & unique about the particular way the music jars. it's similar to what that review's getting at but something a friend of mine said about footwork really openned up the way i thought about it: it's basically psychedelic but exclusively through the use of percussion.
i also find the music really engaging, in the sense that it requires a high level of engagement in order to even access it. like, if you listen to it passively (incl even momentarily phasing out) it just sounds like random, grooveless cacophony, but if you get into it you adapt to & figure out the counterintuitive beats. almost like each song is a kind of puzzle you have to make sense of before dancing to
― flopson, Monday, 16 January 2012 15:47 (2 years ago) Permalink
Yeah, I'm totally into this stuff at the moment, so it's good to hear others are. It's a total game-changer and flopson's on the money about having to "engage" with the music. I guess that's the point and the whole difference btwn footwork and juke is that one is club music and the other is functional music for dance battles. As such it's designed to trip dancers over and wrong-side them so they literally have to think with their feet.
I like how the opening RP Boo track sounds so weird but then turns into a sort of Coltrane/Sun Ra style serial jazz thing. I also like the Traxman tune that sounds like badly-cut up electro/synthwave.
― I want your nose, your shoes and your unicycle (dog latin), Monday, 16 January 2012 16:29 (2 years ago) Permalink
i heard this incredible juke remix of "the only thing i would wish for" by angela bofill the other night... really wish i could find it :(
― I had to google gucci mane (The Brainwasher), Monday, 16 January 2012 18:11 (2 years ago) Permalink
http://www.rhythm-incursions.com/2011/10/07/om-unit-the-phillip-d-kick-experiment-footwork-jungle-vol-3/ seen these yet?
― I want your nose, your shoes and your unicycle (dog latin), Monday, 16 January 2012 18:41 (2 years ago) Permalink
I kinda wish this would become a thing(mute the first vid)
― the boy with the gorn at his side (Edward III), Monday, 16 January 2012 19:28 (2 years ago) Permalink
that review seems to take a lot to say "it's pretty fast and broken" ...and of course fresh/new/vital(!)/different. in actual (physical) dance context (rather than just dance music review context) is what footwork brings to the table really that much more than a more-broken/faster (yet tempered) drum n bass? we know that going off 4/4 itself isn't actually new/unique. reviewer says that most listeners just don't know what to do with it (yet) but will they ever, really, is that capability really there, did the 4/4 toe tappers and coma-inducted skankers really ever end up knowing how to dance to breaks or d+b?
― fauxmarc, Tuesday, 17 January 2012 17:38 (2 years ago) Permalink
so, "shangaan electro"
― the third kind of dubstep (Jordan), Thursday, 19 January 2012 18:04 (2 years ago) Permalink
Is there a direct link here? (besides the fact that HJ have asked rashad and spinn to contribute to their remix series - I mean, there's also a Demdike Stare installment) Obviously footwork and shangaan share a love of crazy percussion but as far as I know the latter is much more into "proper songs" than the cut-up sample style I've heard on Bangs+Works etc.
― Angrrau Birds (seandalai), Thursday, 19 January 2012 18:15 (2 years ago) Permalink
i could have put it on the african thread or the dance partisans but went with 'fast electronic dance music' and didn't think to hard about it. we can move it if anyone wants to discuss somewhere else.
― the third kind of dubstep (Jordan), Thursday, 19 January 2012 18:21 (2 years ago) Permalink
There was a bit of discussion in the rolling world music thread when the Shangaan Electro comp came out and a couple of us repped for it in the 2010 poll, but that seems to be all the coverage it's had on ILM.
― Angrrau Birds (seandalai), Thursday, 19 January 2012 18:30 (2 years ago) Permalink
actually i don't find it nearly as exhilarating as this senegalese stuff (which i think i posted in the african thread):
― the third kind of dubstep (Jordan), Thursday, 19 January 2012 18:46 (2 years ago) Permalink
That is fantastic!
― Angrrau Birds (seandalai), Thursday, 19 January 2012 18:56 (2 years ago) Permalink
3 hunna juke remix
cutting edge yall
― #YOLO #NAMASTE (D-40), Sunday, 29 January 2012 03:09 (2 years ago) Permalink
anyone happen to know where i can find the juked up version of ciara's "get up" that i've heard dj rashad play a few times? guessing it's his own but haven't had any luck tracking it down.
― handy ban (lou), Friday, 3 February 2012 03:57 (2 years ago) Permalink
― DO NOT CALL (The Brainwasher), Friday, 3 February 2012 03:59 (2 years ago) Permalink
god, yes. thank you!
haha i prob shoulda been able to find that, huh?
― handy ban (lou), Friday, 3 February 2012 04:02 (2 years ago) Permalink
haha your welcome, there are so many tracks that are probably totally obvious that I have not been able to find lol
― DO NOT CALL (The Brainwasher), Friday, 3 February 2012 04:08 (2 years ago) Permalink
more footwork recommendations pls! think i've exhausted B&W2 now.
I know DJ Earl has an album coming out, and it reminds me of the slinkier, jazzed-out end of drum'n'bass (Reprazent etc). Lots of soul samples etc... Not really what you'd expect of footwork, but kind of refreshing.
― Laughing Gravy (dog latin), Tuesday, 7 February 2012 10:35 (2 years ago) Permalink
funny people are comparing shangaan electro with footwork as that was the connection I made when I first heard of the style - got into both concurrently.
― Laughing Gravy (dog latin), Tuesday, 7 February 2012 10:37 (2 years ago) Permalink
I like this guyhttp://liljabba.bandcamp.com/album/swisher
― Number None, Tuesday, 7 February 2012 10:45 (2 years ago) Permalink
still grappling with this as a genre but really probably listened to these tracks as much as anything in 2011
wish more footwork producers would do that wheezy blurry techno synth thing
― the late great, Tuesday, 7 February 2012 17:41 (2 years ago) Permalink
from jack to juke - 25 years of ghetto house
― fauxmarc, Friday, 10 February 2012 16:41 (2 years ago) Permalink
Had a go at making my own footwork track out of vintage ska samples. Not sure I've got the hang of it yet, but thought I'd post it here anyway http://soundcloud.com/doglatin/jukeska
― Laughing Gravy (dog latin), Friday, 10 February 2012 16:42 (2 years ago) Permalink
― fauxmarc, Friday, 10 February 2012 16:45 (2 years ago) Permalink
OMG dj traxman your new album is a treat
― the late great, Saturday, 21 April 2012 02:34 (2 years ago) Permalink
I'm loving it too. Also 14tracks.com are doing a footwork comp I wanna check out.
― Scary Move 4 (dog latin), Saturday, 21 April 2012 03:06 (2 years ago) Permalink
am i tripping or does the first track on the traxman album sample the kalimba from roland p young's "crystal motions"?
― the late great, Monday, 23 April 2012 04:33 (2 years ago) Permalink
footworkin on air
i think the sampled bit is about 4 minutes in
but i don't know, i might be tripping
― the late great, Monday, 23 April 2012 04:38 (2 years ago) Permalink
Oowwwwwwww let there be rock / ROCK ROCK RA RA ROCK ROCK RA RA ROCK ROCK RA RA ROCK ROCK RA RA ROCK ROCK RA RA ROCK ROCK RA RA ROCK ROCK RA RA ROCK ROCK RA RA ROCK ROCK RA RA ROCK ROCK RA RA ROCK ROCK RA RA ROCK ROCK RA RA
― azealia canks (Whiney G. Weingarten), Monday, 23 April 2012 04:55 (2 years ago) Permalink
the Traxman album kills but ^that bit did make me think of, like, the middle of a Fatboy Slim set from the 90s
― W. E. B. Du Bois Goals Panel (DJ Mencap), Monday, 23 April 2012 07:12 (2 years ago) Permalink
and that's a bad thing?
― good luck in your pyramid (Neil S), Monday, 23 April 2012 08:45 (2 years ago) Permalink
i knew it wouldnt be long before someone says my favorite track on the album is sucky, but i didnt think it would be with one post
― azealia canks (Whiney G. Weingarten), Monday, 23 April 2012 09:05 (2 years ago) Permalink
xp not particularly no! it's fun when new stuff that is 'cool' accidentally sounds like old stuff that is now 'uncool'
― W. E. B. Du Bois Goals Panel (DJ Mencap), Monday, 23 April 2012 09:05 (2 years ago) Permalink
yeah, definitely, and anyway I think Fatboy Slim was/ is a good, fun party DJ if you can ignore his rather embarrassing excesses. Dance music history is cyclical, not linear!
― good luck in your pyramid (Neil S), Monday, 23 April 2012 09:12 (2 years ago) Permalink
i would think its more in the tradition of lil jon
― the late great, Monday, 23 April 2012 14:59 (2 years ago) Permalink
why is black people never allowed to rock
― the late great, Monday, 23 April 2012 15:00 (2 years ago) Permalink
Feels like it's gone a bit quiet from the footwork camp of late (other than Traxman of course)... What am I missing?
― Scary Move 4 (dog latin), Thursday, 24 May 2012 16:30 (2 years ago) Permalink
Rashad has an album on the way pretty soon I think.
This mix is fire and has plenty of stuff from it.
― jimitheexploder, Thursday, 24 May 2012 17:07 (2 years ago) Permalink
The new Rashad stuff is off the chain
― rock the swagon and g.o.a.t. it (Whiney G. Weingarten), Thursday, 24 May 2012 19:51 (2 years ago) Permalink
that mix is dope.
― 40oz of tears (Jordan), Thursday, 24 May 2012 21:02 (2 years ago) Permalink
this is my first post here so I'd might as well make it count!
"Feels like it's gone a bit quiet from the footwork camp of late (other than Traxman of course)... What am I missing?"
there's all kinds of comps and stuff out now that you should be listening to!
http://japanesemutationbootyism.bandcamp.com/album/japanese-juke-footworks-compilation - the japanese are getting more and more interested in juke. this is a phenomenal comp that covers pretty much all areas of the sound from two and a half min retrigger masturbation sessions to far more abstract works. I can't seem to shake the question of if they realize the kind of music they're making in my mind. yes a lot of it is good but the whole thing seems like a chinese room argument in music.
http://sabacanrecords.bandcamp.com/album/fa-fa-chronicle - more jap juke. everything guchon does /everything on that label is worth listening to by the way; he's been in the game for a while now.
http://dubpornrecordscollection.com/album/belly-a-footwork-compilation - a belly inspired comp
http://radology.bandcamp.com/album/province - some russian cats who instantly took to the sound. if you enjoy this at all I highly suggest grabbing vtgnike's album "Sueta Nebitiya"
http://post-religion.bandcamp.com/album/c-h-o-r-i-z-o-ep - juke for kids who identify with net art.
those are all the recent free comps that come to mind. a lot of the people on those comps have tons of free tunes laying around if you look.
not chicago people to look into:
Andrew JukeBroken FingersDamscrayDream Continuum (supergroup of machinedrum and om unit aka phillip d kick)Film4D2GuchonHayato6goJuke EllingtonLeatherfaceLiL JaBBA (can't stress this guy enough)MachinedrumNomsSatanicpornocultshopSide9000SkimatixVtgnikeWheez-IeX-Man
hope that helps~
― nohighs, Friday, 25 May 2012 17:43 (2 years ago) Permalink
― flopson, Friday, 25 May 2012 18:37 (2 years ago) Permalink
nohighs = Dave?
― rock the swagon and g.o.a.t. it (Whiney G. Weingarten), Friday, 25 May 2012 19:03 (2 years ago) Permalink
dave quam? no, too hipster-ish.
― the late great, Friday, 25 May 2012 19:30 (2 years ago) Permalink
ahah who is dave and how do I remind you guys of him
― nohighs, Friday, 25 May 2012 23:10 (2 years ago) Permalink
Thanks for this nohighs! Fuckin' awesome
― Scary Move 4 (dog latin), Saturday, 26 May 2012 00:07 (2 years ago) Permalink
I decided to gamble on a 14tracks.com compilation called footwork diffusion - it's not a strictly footwork comp but I'm impressed with a good bunch of the tracks so far.
― Scary Move 4 (dog latin), Saturday, 26 May 2012 00:08 (2 years ago) Permalink
― Scary Move 4 (dog latin), Saturday, 26 May 2012 01:18 (2 years ago) Permalink