Available on: Planet Mu LP
Footwork can be club-crushing dance music in the most literal sense (i.e. made specifically for dancing competition purposes), but it’s also got the potential to be something completely different. DJ Nate and DJ Elmoe in particular have made names for themselves producing tracks that seem to hang in the air, suspended by ghostly forces – dance music in the sense that Burial, say, is dance music.
Machinedrum isn’t from Chicago, but he’s one of many artists to appropriate juke and footwork into their production methods in recent years. All the tracks on Room(s) are in the 150-160bpm range, and look very specifically at that ghostly brand of footwork for inspiration. But whereas there’s something deliciously amateur about Nate and Elmoe, Machinedrum’s approach is far more studied: not simply in a pure production sense, but in the sense of the harmonies, melodies and use of vocals, which sound so familiar on first listen that it’s almost incredible.
Room(s)’ vocals are chopped up and reassembled, but unlike a lot of footwork, where the vocal sampling is used as a weapon, fired at the listener from every direction, here they take on an aquatic, euphoric quality, more akin to Balam Acab. Likewise when Machinedrum appropriates jungle breaks into the album, rather than sound fast and bolshy themselves, they sound lost in amongst the bustle of a city street.
In many ways, Room(s) could be footwork’s Untrue. It takes a specific dance form, and inverts it in a way that’s not yet been done over a full-length album, creating a mist-coated crossroads between footwork, pop and ambient. However, like mist, Room(s) can be incredibly overwhelming while you’re inside it, but once it’s dispersed you ultimately don’t leave with vivid memories, and it certainly doesn’t keep me rushing back in the same way that Untrue and others have. One of the year’s strongest albums, for sure, but strangely not one of its most memorable.