Various VariousBangs & Works Vol. 1 (A Chicago Footwork Compilation)
It was obvious that Mike Paradinas was keeping a few cards up his sleeve. The Planet Mu boss isn’t known for playing games, nor does he maintain a poker face, but in the case of footwork, a genre he’s pulled up from the deepest underground and made into the trend topic of the year, it was clear that his strategy would have to be measured. Ever since the first bits of information started to appear in August, with the first 12” by DJ Nate, followed by the “Da Trak Genious” album, Paradinas has been releasing, little by little, gems from the Chicago underground: DJ Roc, DJ Rashad and now a bit of everything, on this generous and straightforward compilation featuring the usual suspects of juke plus a handful of new names that should keep the buzz alive and supply a market that demands more of the stuff. The people want more, and Paradinas gives them just that: enter new cats like DJ Diamond, DJ Elmoe, DJ Trouble and DJ Clent, who confirm that the first signings of Planet Mu were only the tip of the iceberg, and that what comes next is also full of minimalism, violence, ghetto and rhythmic experiments to entangle legs and provoke hamstring injuries among the dancers of the footwork scene.
The moment this “Bangs & Works Vol. 1” is out, the compilation becomes a classic of a vigorous genre (less than “Warrior Dubz”, compiled by Mary Anne Hobbs, but almost). It was now or never (or too late), and the timing is perfect: at the end of 2010, to finish the year and proclaim that this happened at this time and we were there to witness it. This record doesn’t worry about the future or the possible development of juke at all: it’s all about the present which, to say the least, causes perplexity and blinking of eyes. There’s been a lot of talk about this subgenre of the ghetto continuum and there seems to be a consensus about its reality and possibilities: it’s a relative novelty at a time when fans of raw electronic music are looking for renovation options before the excessive popularisation of dubstep, the British hegemony and the lethargy of techno, and many don’t actually believe there’s a big potential for progression. It’s absolutely possible that what awaits juke is the same fate as the Swedish/Finnish skweee: a one-day fad that never took off. But the key words here are carpe diem, and if the scene develops, we’ll welcome the new mutations which, in truth, have their roots in 80s Miami freestyle electro and have since then moved on, full of sex, street life and poor technological resources, to Chicago and Detroit in the form of ghetto-tech and booty-house. Die, it won’t.
The first thing to draw attention on “Bangs & Works Vol. 1” is the homogeneity of the juke sound. Whether it be DJ Nate or Traxman –spearhead or unknown producer–, they all cut the tracks according to the same pattern: bipolar breaks that speed up and slow down, sliced vocals and almost always a sample of some famous song all liven up the wriggling unfolding of the snares, claps and beat. It’s that uniformity that makes one think there won’t be much future for juke if someone doesn’t renew the formula. On this compilation of 25 tracks there are two levels of excitation: one, about footwork itself as a novelty, a shot of enthusiasm that hasn’t calmed down yet; two, the suitability of the sample. There are no cleared samples and they’re difficult to identify because there’s a lot of screwed & chopped post-production, but it sounds like DJ Elmoe is using Stina Nordenstam ( “Whea Yo Ghost At, Whea Yo Dead Man”), The Pope uses vocals by Beyoncé ( “All The Things”), RP Boo samples “Live And Let Die” by Paul McCartney on “Eraser”, Traxman cuts an clear sample of Kraftwerk’s “It’s More Fun To Compute” on “Compute Funk” and, again DJ Elmoe, recycles what sounds like an Enya piano on “Yo Shit Fucked Up”.
There is a third factor, which is the shade of each track. Some are closer to hip-hop and other to European rave music. There are some touches of jungle and mainstream rap, some electro and even gabber and heavy metal. Therefore, we have to be careful with the statement that there’s not much future for juke. At first sight, its resources seem limited, but the same went for dub in its day, and look how that has developed over the past forty years. There’s a plasticity in the genre that looks promising. It’s up to no-one else but the boys and girls who, when night falls, as if they were meeting at a “Fight Club” venue, get together to dance to the furious rhythms of these youngsters who modify electro’s roots at will and have no fear of tomorrow. Juke is alive and has an open future. It only depends on itself. So let’s see what will happen, on the second volume implied in the title of “Bangs & Works”.