“I just want to make all types of music. […] I just want people to keep an open ear to different kinds of rhythms, different ideas.”– DJ Earl Footwork finds itself in uncharted terrain in 2016. As it transitions beyond its first wave of integration into the dance music continuum, a movement that culminated in DJ Rashad’s widely acclaimed and scene-surveying, Double Cup, competing claims for its essence pull it in several directions.
No matter how you look at it, DJ Earl's Open Your Eyes has a lot to live up to. The involvement of Daniel Lopatin, AKA Oneohtrix Point Never, was enough to inflate expectations. But in some sense it also felt like this album would be an important statement for the future of footwork as a whole. It's the first full-length of all new material to appear on the Teklife crew's eponymous label, following only a collection of archive material from the late DJ Rashad.Indeed, Open Your Eyes has a confidently evolved sound.
If you listen closely, you can hear footwork undergoing a transition that house and techno made before it: from a functional music created for dancers to a music made, at least in part, for personal expression. As with house and techno, this has resulted in tighter and more precise compositions, as producers—who have also gotten better at using their gear/software—are no longer rushing beats to the dance floors. If you compare DJ Rashad’s Double Cup or Jlin’s Dark Energy with the types of tracks—full of eerie ambiance and seams-showing production values—featured on the seminal Bangs & Works compilation, there is an uptick in both fidelity and personality.