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Footwork is in an interesting place right now. A few years on from its movement away from its Chicago origins and into global consciousness, it’s a scene inviting comparisons to New Orleans Bounce for being a long-time locality that later developed into buzz-word acclaim, not least through those completely captivating dance moves. That loose sonic template – those always insistent padded drums, its oft exhaustive energy, and occasionally its intriguing inwardness when its jukin’ drops to half tempo – doesn’t feel like a faddish phase soon to be passed through. Those feral, off-kilter 160bpm rhythm kicks are too irresistible a production mould in 2013. Footwork’s part of the furniture now – but at the risk of overselling the analogy, it feels more like an unassuming, hand-designed rocking chair than a garish Ikea leather three-piece.
So where does this position a scene mainstay like DJ Rashad? He’s an essential part of its fabric, who, along with associates like DJ Spinn, has been at the core of innovations in the sound in the last three or four years – and therefore a clear focal point for footwork and juke moving beyond cult-status and into a position as dancefloor staples. A recent answer came with news that Rashad would follow last year’s mini masterpiece ‘TEKLIFE Vol 1: Welcome to the Chi’ LP, with a four track release on Hyperdub. And with its breakbeat-indebted pounds and soaring inwardness, Let It Go – the second track heard after its slick title track – is a treat more than worthy of the title of song of the week.
The clearest way this manifests is Let It Go’s ease of complexity – throwing us right in with a tugging breakbeat. While some, back when footwork first made waves on British waters, wanted to distance the sound from the likes of jungle, the way in which this cut-up beat blends with voice and dampened strings links it back to mid-90s UK breakbeat flavours (at least at the beginning). It’s a testament to the strength of the formulation of this initial template that when the inevitable drum pads enter and thud into your chest, they do so with real intensity. Further lashes of incessant, characterful rhythm drop in and out of the fray, but it’s Let It Go’s emotive centre that really sends it higher – with its titular sample of vocal presenting a hazed, almost lamenting take on club tension and release. And with its release on Hyperdub, such tenderness and dancefloor reflectivity – from Burial to Aidy’s Girl Is A Computer to Cooly G – has often been an as essential ingredient in the success of Kode9’s era-defining label.
The ‘Rollin’‘ EP feels appropriately timed, with Kode9 soon to release his own footwork-textured ‘Xingfu Lu’. Further back and considering wider give and take with the UK scene, ‘TEKLIFE…’s’ Walk For Me – which gleefully stuttered around its layered vox – was crafted around the same Robbie Tronco sample that made Joy Orbison and Boddika’s Swims one of 2011’s inescapable jams. But while footwork almost reaches as far back as a pre-internet age, notions and ideas of cross-pollination can feel rather tired these days. While still unquestionably loyal to where he’s come from, DJ Rashad’s Let It Go shows thrilling signs in the development of a wider-reaching, complex and proficient sound.
DJ Rashad – Let It Go