Release Date: Apr 17, 2012
Record label: Planet Mu
Genre(s): Electronic, Club/Dance
The Mind of Traxman is the fourth full-length artist album of Chicago footwork music to be released by Planet Mu -- following estimable efforts from DJ Nate, DJ Roc, DJ Diamond -- and in many respects, it follows a similar template, offering up a potentially numbing, hour-long barrage of hypnotic, stutter-filled tracks which slice and dice a kaleidoscopic array of sample sources. But Traxman, aka Cornelius Ferguson -- a scene veteran whose bona-fides stretch back at least to a 1996 12" released on legendary ghetto house label Dance Mania -- definitely sets himself apart from the pack here. The album's title could be seen as a subtle clue to the difference: juke and footwork have always been much more about the body than the mind, but Traxman tends to hone in on the music's more thoughtful, meditative qualities, inviting characterizations like "smooth," "mellow," and "mature," which might seem antithetical to footwork's characteristically frantic assault.
The first time I heard DJ Diamond’s 2011 track “Torture Rack” was the first time I stumbled upon the intersection, in the Venn diagram of Chicago’s non-mainstream, of its footworking circles and its dungeons. The track’s title and high-end whip-cracks evoked metonymically what the last few years’ most compelling footwork albums have musically: our bodies’ powerlessness in the face of physical stimuli. Not the obviously-pleasurable sex pantomime we normally associate with dance music’s bodily stimulation — unlike most dance music, it’s about violence, not sex.
So you’re an earnest and open-eared sort who is keen to take a punt on hot new sounds when you read about them, but is also fastidiously self-aware and worried about looking like a bandwagon jumper. You got into footwork, the Chicago-birthed dance subgenre, about 18 months ago, when Planet Mu Records released that DJ Nate compilation [http://drownedinsound.com/releases/15634/reviews/4140922]. Given that footwork was almost impossible to buy in the UK (where you live) beforehand, no-one could reasonably hold this against you.
With over two decades under his belt, Traxman is a well known name in the ring of Chicago producers. He co-founded the Geto DJ'z clique and is a member of DJ Rashad & DJ Spinn's Ghetto Teknitianz, purveyors of various types of urban house music out of Chi-city. Traxman is additionally something of a makeshift torch-bearing, crate-digging historian for the city's unique brand of house music and all of its offshoots.
Dance music is a futurist's game, and footwork is no different. When the music bubbled up out of Chicago's South and West Sides two years ago, listeners took notice in part because of the undeniable newness of the sound. Since then, conversation has focused on where footwork is going, especially on where forward-thinking artists both here (Sepalcure, Machinedrum) and across the Atlantic (Kuedo, Addison Groove) are taking the sound.
Sumptuous, grand, straight up soulful? This is footwork, Jim, but not as we know it. By opening his debut full-length with 'Footworkin On Air''s elegant kalimba melody - something you'd sooner associate with 4th world-plundering art-rock - Cornelius Ferguson sets his stall out early. The Mind Of Traxman upscales the footwork universe, in a bid to render the genre an enduring art-form for the masses keeping ears tuned via Planet Mu's recent release schedule.
A style never streamlined for the mainstream, Chicago ghetto house has been known for its raw vocals and higher than normal BPMs. Juke, footwork and ghetto were born as one and are of the same family, to which Traxman's head is well connected. This member of Chicago's Geto DJz and Ghetto Teknitianz crews brings unexpected elements to the blend on this album.