One of footwork's most exciting voices visits behind a new album. Info
When legendary Chicago footwork innovator DJ Rashad died suddenly and tragically in 2014, both the late producer/DJ and footwork itself seemed to be at a peak. What had once been an incredibly niche genre of bass music designed for competitive Chicago dance crews now had incredible international reach, with new crops of footwork producers popping up everywhere from the UK to Japan and DJ Rashad and fellow pioneers like DJ Spinn and Traxman suddenly touring all over the world. The crossover owes both to how refreshing the urgent grit and acrobatic rhythmic programming of the music itself was, but also to the work put in by μ-Ziq mastermind Mike Paradinas. The UK-based IDM legend had been releasing a series of compilations of footwork tracks from then-unknown producers like Jlin, DJ Nate, and more called Bangs And Works on his own imprint Planet Mu, and eventually began releasing full-length albums for them.
Before DJ Rashad passed away, he co-founded Teklife with DJ Spinn and designer-photographer Ashes57. Teklife which continues to function as both a label and a crew of producers, DJs, and dancers. Chicago-based producer DJ Earl—née Earl Smith—was still in high school when he began working with Teklife and is currently one of the freshest voices the genre has to offer. Smith's elegant blend of hammering polyrhythms and smoked-out, psychedelic flare continues to push the music forward in DJ Rashad's honor.
On this year's W3RK DAT, Smith's first full-length since 2016's Open Your Eyes, he continues journeying deep for illuminating sonics, hidden grooves, and pummeling bass tones. "Digital Rise," a collaboration with NYC-based producer Suzi Analogue, is a frantic and playfully ominous dance cut with what sounds like an 8-bit tornado siren ascending over the bass-powered backdrop. A few other huge highlights arrive in the future-juke stylings of "Make It Hurt," the creepy industrial-juke cocktail "Wall Of Sound," and the stoner-synth haze of "Off Kush Boaa." Smith is pretty prolific with his solo material, remixes, and collaborations (often with other Teklife members), so his DJ set on the Terrace may be a perfect opportunity to hear a wealth of unreleased material, as well as a history lesson from one of footwork's most studied proteges. —Joel Shanahan