Two years ago electronic music and the Chicago Footwork Scene was shocked by the sudden death of pioneer and focal point DJ Rashad. Since his passing there have been various tribute albums including one independently released by the producer Machinedrum and the compilation Next Life by label Hyperdub. However, Afterlife, is the first release since DJ Rashad’s death to feature DJ Rashad on every track and to some extent forms a Rashad album.
Excitingly Afterlife is also the first release on the newly formed Tek Life label, which is to be run by the Chicago based crew of producers and dancers known by the same name. For those who are uninitiated Chicago Footwork is a sample heavy aggressive and fractured form of house, which has become the soundtrack in Mid-Western American Cities to Footwork Dance Battles. Due to the tight nature of the scene and its main players’ relative poverty actual releases, compilations and international appearances have been sporadic and mostly supported by the labels Planet MU and Hyperdub. Though now with the founding of the Tek Life label, this Afterlife album and DJ Spinn’s recent tours, the wider world may be ready to eventually discover Footwork.
The sound, aggression and darkness of Footwork can most closely be compared to 90s Jungle. This similarity is so close that many Footwork producers have been turning their hand to Jungle samples and tracks in recent years. Indeed on Afterlife this can be seen on the track Come Close and it is on tracks like this, which crossbreed various genres that Footwork feels both more experimental and yet somehow ready for mainstream consumption.
To say that Afterlife goes in hard would be an understatement, since these beats were made for dance battles the album is full of energy. Nearly every member of the Chicago scene has a guest spot on the release: DJ Spinn, Taso, Traxman, DJ Paypal, Gant-Man and DJ Manny, all the main players are present and correct. Seemingly making this album not just a DJ Rashad (tribute) album but also a mission statement that this is Footwork and we are Footwork.
Roll Up that Loud and Get Fuk’d Up are thrilling starts to the album with Roll Up that Loud being a particular highlight with its seemingly jungle-esque drum rolls. Get Fuk’d Up is slower and more mournful and perhaps highlights what made DJ Rashad stand out as a producer, his ability to keep a crowd hyped whilst also introducing mournful beats, which have come from a dark place. It’s these tracks, which are most often the highlight of Afterlife and serve to remind us of what could have been.
The real highlight though is the jungle-aping Come Close, which features a grab bag of RnB samples, jungle beats and almost Aphex Twin-esque drum loops. It’s nothing short of thrilling and brilliant and goes to prove that away from EDM the American underground can produce truly experimental electronic music.
Oh God brilliantly sounds like Footwork if it appeared in a film scored by John Carpenter with dark synths and strange noises. You can almost envision an impending gun fight in a dark rainy city-scape.
There is rarely a dull track on Afterlife and the album takes in so many twists, turns and samples that each listen is exciting and leaves you fired up for the dance floor. Afterlife is not just a fittingly tribute to DJ Rashad but a stand out release to launch a label with, welcome to the world Tek Life.