Following releases from the likes of Ramadanman, Girl Unit and Addison Groove this year, the underground scene in the UK has demonstrated a rising penchant for juke inspired music. Accordingly, Planet Mu have interweaved an extended assortment of concise tracks from the Windy City’s footwork veterans as well as new producers on the block. Bangs & Works Vol. 1(A Chicago Footwork Compilation) is a fresh insight into the less commercial footwork scene of Chi-Town and is an offshoot from the distinguished Chicago house landscape. This is the first compilation from a UK label which showcases the production range of DJ’s and the D.I.Y nature which has kept a lid on the subversive dance battles that are regular events in abandoned warehouses and school gymnasiums.
With the benchmark set at 160 BPM , Footwork lifts sliced samples from popular songs of yesteryear (Paul Mccartney & Wings are well voiced on RP Boo’s Eraser) and films such as Star Wars over vicious drum loops and raucous subbass to create a resonance for this isolated scene. Footwork maybe a new trend percolating these isles, but the genre has been prominent for at almost three decades now. For a large majority of the African – American Diaspora, the four-to-the-floor bass patterns and colloquial chants that were a feature of Ghetto House became synonymous with many social events in the early 90’s. Juke was the next stage of evolution for this subsidiary of House but it’s superior commercial appeal created a division; most notably with the scene’s spirited dancers.
Alas Footwork rose from the proverbial ashes via RP Boo’s landmark 12- inch ‘Baby Come On‘ in the late 90’s. The prototype drum pattern in tandem with double and half time stretching techniques on the record have been adopted by producers for their respective palettes ever since. On the LP, Tha Pope (Benedict’s hood alias?) also known as Chi-town’s youngest celebrity hails from the far North Side ‘hood Rogers Park. The familiar Mbube inspired sample from ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ by Solomon Linda echoes in a monotonous mode from the off on ‘Jungle Juke’. Deviating in pitch between North and South on a discordant beat, the initial thirty or so seconds is spent appreciating the powerful and engaging sample. However, rather like a Victoria Line train making impromptu stops in tunnels amidst the sardine packed interior, your entrapped with no signal from the “holy one” of further developments.
Another young producer by the name of DJ Trouble is part of the latest generation whose music has emerged on the Footwork scene via social networking. His beats are described as being “darker than many of his peers” in the sleeve notes and the title track ‘Bangs & Works’ adheres to this decree of distinction. A string inspired sample taken from Academy Award winning composer Tan Dun is the base for the pulsating toms, tetchy snares and compelling claps to be led by a low pitched refrain of “Bang”.
With the aid of a search toolbar into a popular video sharing website, bear witness to an unrefined but zealous medley of speed synchronised moves. (One clip has more vitality than all series’ of Strictly amalgamated) Looking through the Sleeve Notes it quickly becomes apparent that for the majority of artists featured on Bangs & Works Vol. 1, this shady relative of House music provides a focal point for them to channel their experiences in harsh neighbourhoods and progress them into the future.
In the UK, Footwork has inspired Addison Groove’s ‘Footcrab’ and Ramadanman’s ‘Work Them’.These examples are not as out of the ordinary as their Atlantic counterparts, yet they act as a light starter for those wishing to tuck into the main course served by the scene across the pond. The music and relentless dance ethic that epitomises Footwork reflects a raw energy that has been preserved by the young generations for years to come. Yet, what remains to be seen is whether this genre will bear weight over here in this ever shifting hybrid landscape.