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Bangs & Works Vol. 2 Charlie Frame , November 29th, 2011 10:19

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If footwork ever goes on to prove as influential as dubstep, the first Bangs & Works will be recognised as its Run The Road, its Dubstep Allstars – the definitive compilation that brought the genre out of its own hyper-localised scene and under the wider global radar. Mike Paradinas' original haul has made minor stars of hitherto unknown DJ/producers such as Roc, Spinn and Rashad, all of whom have released solo efforts on Paradinas' UK electronica label Planet-μ. Twelve months since its release, and we've already seen the likes of Africa Hitech, Machinedrum and Sully paying tribute to Bangs & Works' 160bpm sample-splitting madness, to great effect in most cases.

Influential? Certainly. Accessible? Mmm, well… Footwork was never initially intended to be heard away from the ferocious dance circles formed in Chicago basements and gyms, far from our own home stereos and iPods. The music's primary function as a backdrop for dance battles has seen even devoted followers owning up to aural exhaustion through extended play. The style's frenetic rhythms and homespun productions sound erratic and alien in mainstream club and home listening environments.

But this is precisely why footwork has garnered a niche audience grown weary of rising production values. There's an honesty, a rawness, a "punk rock-ness" inherent in footwork that hasn't really been heard since the early years of techno and its more extreme offshoots like gabba and 'ardkore. Global adopters like Africa Hitech and Addison Groove have found success through re-appropriation of the footwork template, bevelling its rough edges and cutting it with other styles of dance and electronica. But Bangs & Works' legacy so far has been a backboard to be bounced off - an interesting and inspiring artefact to be drawn from, twisted and bastardised at will, but not necessarily played (in its purest form) for pleasure alone. Footwork remains a largely academic pursuit for many listeners, yet to spawn a big Fabric mix or a major clubbing scenario. So after Bangs & Works, how much OG footwork do we really need? And does anyone seriously need to own more than one footwork album?

Bangs & Works Vol. 2 makes a very good case for the affirmative. Maybe it's something to do with time, having allowed the footwork sound to sink in over the last year, but to these ears this second volume feels like a remarkable step-up from the first outing. Whereas Vol. 1 set out to showcase footwork in its essence, Vol. 2 is all the better off for exploring the style's outer limits. Still as unhinged as ever, the variety on show makes for a much more accessible listening experience.

Here, it's all about the twists and turns – the bluffs and dummies incorporated into footwork production that trip and wrongside dancers into having to think "on their feet". Scene originator RP Boo claims the first footwork rhythm was programmed in about five-minutes. He opens this compilation with 'Heavy Heat' – no more than a hotch-potch of incongruous sounds, with the odd 808 snare thrown in to keep it all from falling apart. For all it's worth, it could just be the intro from Pharoahe Monch's 'Simon Says' skipping on a malfunctioning CD player. But as the disparate snippets of vocal and siren build up around one another, they start to form a semi-logical pattern, hinting at something greater than the sum of its parts. There's a looseness in the footwork template that allows for an almost free-jazz aesthetic – where snares don't have to hit on every third beat and samples are broken and retriggered so many times over that they form their own unique linguistic framework.

Longtime player Traxman is so hasty in his stream-of-consciousness mixing and matching of samples that the chopped eighties loop on 'Brainwash' contains noticeable gaps that are way too big and sloppy to be accidental. Instead they create a disorientating stop-start effect that tricks the brain (and supposedly dancers' feet) into believing there's something wrong with the music; that is, until the whole thing ramps up about three notches and goes absolutely berserk in the last third.

DJ T-Why, a newcomer to the series, manages to marry the classic ESG 'UFO' sample with a string arrangement from Lord Of The Rings. Why? Because he can. And because people need new beats to dance to.

There really are too many WTF moments on this compilation to mention - and that, if nothing else, is the reason you should own it. It's been too long since any new music has been this unabashedly goddamn brave about not sugarcoating itself in shimmering production or reining itself in with uptight pop sensibilities. Bangs & Works Vol. 2 straddles a fine line between function and dysfunction, innocence and dissonance - and not once in its 26 track run does it ever get boring.

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Nov 29, 2011 9:10pm

"brought the genre out of its own hyper-localised scene and under the wider global radar."

You realise that if y're under a radar it means that the radar isn't picking you up, right?

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dog latin
Nov 29, 2011 10:55pm

In reply to Nabisco:

I could pretend this is a UK/US linguistic divide thing, but you're quite right Nabisco, I stand corrected.

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Nov 29, 2011 10:56pm

In reply to Nabisco:

Nit pickin' much Nabisco? Let's look for holes in criticism even if those holes don't matter much. Hope you understand what the reviewer meant or did he not spell it out for you enough?

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Nov 30, 2011 10:38pm

Any thorough criticism of these comps should consider whether in compiling them from London and not ever going to Chicago, Planet Mu made a sacrifice that they didn't need to make. I would argue that these comps could have been made in the "field" and they would have been just as successful, if not more successful. Instead, we're left wondering (until we dig deeper and listen more) what these tracks actually represent beyond the reach of the Planet Mu armchair.

Simon Reynold's quote from the Planet Mu website for Bangs and Work 2 also gave me pause: "I put on one of my blogs that Mike Paradinas [who compiled the CD] deserves a knighthood for this, because he went through a lot of stuff and there must have been a lot of quite indifferent material." Knighthood for not even going to Chicago? Indifferent material? The massive and growing body of work in Chicago that makes up ghetto house, juke and footwork isn't indifferent, but it is underexposed and under-appreciated, often in the city of its birth. Hopefully international attention (largely thanks to Planet Mu and youtube) will change that.

Planet Mu does deserve huge props for the work they did to bring this music to light. Now that the music is exposed, though, hopefully musicians in Chi will more effectively be able to lead their own way forward, spreading what they feel (and what Chicago feels) are the genre-defining tracks, and educating people about how their music exists in and creates larger contexts. With more knowledge of context (and more awareness of tracks as songs and as mix components), maybe what's been difficult to hear in this challenging music, might come through clearer and richer.

Criticism of Mu aside, this recent Red Bull talk with Spinn and Rashad is a great example of just one of the many important things to come from their groundbreaking footwork and juke releases >>

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Charlie Frame
Nov 30, 2011 11:48pm

In reply to wills:

Cheers Wills, I'll look at this. I think it'll be interesting to see how the homegrown Chicago sound will develop now that the lid's been taken off footwork and others are joining in. Will they take a lead, or will they stay true to the grassroots sound? It's kind of hard to tell how old the individual tracks on B&W2 really are, and whether we're listening to brand new material or stuff from wayback.

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Dec 1, 2011 12:31am

In reply to Charlie Frame:

Thanks for the quick response, Charlie. I think Chi will stay true to the dancers, and stay true to the tradition of weird dance music. Maybe a more important question is: how will outside audiences, artists and labels find innovative ways to get on board and rise to the challenge of this music and its local network? What we've seen so far has been great, but there's still a massive body of music (from Dance Mania on) that isn't available or monetized properly on behalf of the artists.

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Dec 1, 2011 10:35am

In reply to wills:

Paradinas has said in more than one interview that he hasn't been to Chicago to meet the folks on here because it would necessarily mean he has to take sides in some fairly pronounced crew rivalries

if you're in a position of knowledge to say that that's BS then I'm all ears, but until then I'm gonna believe him

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Dec 1, 2011 9:38pm

In reply to Noel:

As someone who's spent plenty of time with many of the artists on the compilations, I think that's a cop-out and also serves to further exotify Chicago as this place where rivalries are so intense that you wouldn't even want go there in person... so much of this music and dance is about competition, that's part of why it's been able to get good; Boo called it a "competitive sport".

Mike said he wanted to portray his own vision of the scene, and I'm super interested in his vision (so are a lot of people), but I think I'm more interested in the actual context and history and culture than in Mike's curation from afar.

I'm interested in what Mike's aesthetic offers musicians in Chicago AND what does it inhibit in terms of people approaching footwork and juke more directly and with deeper understanding? Shouldn't Mike just go there to see what it's like before he judges? All this said, the fact that we're even discussing this is in large part thanks to him and Planet Mu. That should be recognized.

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J Cush LIT CITY Ghettotekz @Azizaman
Dec 1, 2011 9:57pm

In reply to :

I've been working with Ghettotekz for the last year in Chicago, Europe and in Brooklyn where I live, so I have some experience that may be helpful to this conversation. First and foremost, congratulations to them for all their success.

Although, it might seem that there are 'pronounced rivalries' to some based off of Mike's interviews, he hasn't seen how it is first hand. That's all based on word of mouth. It'll just be the words of some against the words of others. One needs to travel to Chicago's south and west sides to understand the competition and to study who's taking sounds from who, etc. Seeing and hearing first hand can only lead PlanetMu to even more powerful releases.

My experience is that in Chicago, the crews more or less stick to their own, djing separate events, for the most part. There are some rivalries between dance crews but these are all healthy & kept within the circle. To put it bluntly, there is no reason to avoid going to Chicago. To be honest, it would offer a lot of insight into the movers and shakers of the sound (& dancing) and certainly create even more powerful and insightful compilations.

These compilations serve as a view to some of the various sounds and styles that have existed over the last few years however, I wouldn't look at these as a wholesome summary, just a singular view for PlanetMu's market.

Tatsuya (aka DJ April) flew from Japan to hear and see this first hand. He was at Juke Fest as Smart Bar with the Ghettoteknitianz one night and the next night was checking BOTC at BattleGroundz on the southside. I don't know why that would be a problem. To be honest, anyone who comes to check out what they do, is received with open arms because that shows real respect, care and love for the sound & dance.

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