Chrissy Murderbot Chrissy MurderbotWomen’s Studies
Some might know Chrissy Murderbot for nth-generation jungle productions on several US labels, but more might be familiar with him as a DJ who describes himself being in love with “juke-rave-jungle-disco-tropical-hi-NRG-gangsta-garage-core”. On his blog he offers a mind-boggling lexicon of mixes, recently having uploaded one a week for a whole year – compressed 101s on everything from New Jack Swing to Neue Deutsche Welle, via bassline house and Belgian techno.
“Women’s Studies” is not the work of a purist clearly, although it doesn’t quite equal the polymorphism of his record collection. Spread through most of the album is the rhythmic virus of juke, a genre of music (local to Murderbot’s adopted city of Chicago) which he among others evangelises. It’s one ingredient thrown into the pan, his aim fixed on a bewildering idea of panache. Some of the time it does feel good to be unshackled from any sort of propriety; the rest it could well be found find grating.
Partisans for increased musical tourism should greet the approach in a favourable frame of mind, but to others it will look tiresome often – one unkind analogy being that of a rather lame foreign exchange programme. British MC Rubi Dan’s lairy barking won’t seem suit the context of “New Juke Swing”, literally a New Jack Swing beat accelerated to juke tempo. Snares on “The Vibe Is So Right” will nip bracingly at the ankles like Lil Silva’s, but it will seem an effortful swerve (away from biting straightforward UK funky) when “Amen” breaks, heavy handclaps and cartoon ragga are laid on thick. All the ideas in “Bump Uglies” will seem a medley of brightly painted, flat scenery, overcrowded but lacking depth.
Oddly, the majority of such stuff is sequenced on the first side, making the second half much better. While “Pelvic Floor” makes a counter-intuitive juxtaposition, it’s also more than the sum of its parts: the same rattly piano vamp sampled on Jeff Mills’s “Changes of Life” happens to combine inspirationally with the pungent dancehall flavour of a scrambled “Sleng Teng” bassline. Rubi Dan this time is on form and in place, though Lord knows why he should be preaching about exercising an eponymous part of the anatomy. “Jiggle” simply works, as an unfussy pairing of Juke and Detroit flavours, ghettotech chants and balmy Rhodes played against energetically drunken drums.
Almost inevitably in light of “Women’s Studies” as a title, there is throughout a theme of sexual objectification to discuss. Murderbot has called it “tongue in cheek” although professing to “stay in the middle”, seeming unsure himself whether the album “like a 2 Live Crew record” or “poking fun at a 2 Live Crew record”. Somewhat empty refrains such as “When you gonna let a pimp break you off” and “Hoes just bussin’ down” are pretty inconsequential either way; ultimately they have no more than the potential to be very mildly unpleasant. Warrior Queen’s viewpoint on “Nice Looking Bwoy” and “Under Dress” is a relief anyway, not to mention that she eases consummately into two enjoyable confections of Dancehall, Juke and slow-burning house.
In the worst moments of this, his highest profile release to date, Chrissy Murderbot invokes a similar curse to the Tower of Babel, arguably denying himself a sensible language. On the other hand, when he leaves room for his obvious facility as a producer to breathe, the music speaks for itself.