Posted on April 1st, 2013 (1:00 pm) by Jeremy Flynn

To understand DJ Rashad, you need to understand footwork. Footwork (noun), is a not-so-underground-anymore dance form hailing from Chicago. The dance can be as incessant as power-violence metal and as unpredictable as an exorcism, and so is the music that accompanies it. DJ Rashad has been making the most forward-thinking footworking music for years; his beats are danceable, yet are always pulling ahead. Of note was his album TekLife Vol. 1, put out last year on Lit City Trax. The album is a defamiliarizing walk into the future, past, and present of dance music, and is required listening for the genre under consideration. The tempos come and go, the samples are alien-human grotesqueries, and the end product is a sound whose form ripples into the oblique, violent silhouette of Rashad’s home city.

DJ Rashad’s newest EP, Rollin’, has just been released by across-the-pond good guys Hyperdub, a label with a knack for vision (see Laurel Halo’s 2012 full length on Hyperdub, Quarantine). The fact that Rashad has moved to England, metaphorically speaking, is a huge deal. A sound that defines one city is being imposed onto another city, and the world at large. This is important.

“Im rolling down a lonely highway / I’m asking God to please forgive me” is the first full verbal idea presented on opener “Rollin.” The phrase is burned into your mind ad infinitum, until “God” is summarily substituted with “She,” and the confusion/substitution speaks to the dis-logic of a guilty conscience. This sample continues throughout the full four and a half minutes of the song, and it grows stronger with every additional layer of shimmer and speed.

In immediate counterpoint, track two, “Let It Go” retorts track one's penitence with the phrase, “Let it go... let it go.” The track, with its quavering synthesizers and placating female vocals, suggest that letting it go in fact may be possible, or at the least ideal. The track features a brilliant slowdown just before two minutes, and then everything is spiraling faster into terrifying hi-hats. The track’s speed and sloth suggest Rollin’ may not be such an easy escape after all, that driving away may just be delaying an inevitable confrontation or recurrence.

DJ Rashad’s raw prowess is laid bare on the intro to “Drums Please.” Well, really it’s exhibited throughout the EP, but the aptly named song shows us just how handy Rashad still is at drum line reminiscent cadences. The snares jerk back and forth for just long enough that they won’t stop getting to us, and then all of a sudden the snares are gone. This is the true beauty of the track; layers are added gradually until the drums have been built over with them, and then they are left behind by all. What we then find is a synth melody so intuitive, it’s practically telepathic. I was thinking “Gee, wouldn’t this be nice if this went up an octave?” And then it did! Eventually the synth and snares return, and the process of obviation happens all over again. There’s no shame is some A-B-A-B when it’s so infectious. There are no vocals to meditate on, as the track seeming to be “Rollin’” at its most condensed form; the rapid tempo flying away from something unavoidable, something unspeakable.

The EP stops running with “Broken Heart,” its closer. “Broken heart” is bellowed immediately, and I understood the phrase as a confession, and as catharsis. “Gets down on their knees and starts to pray” becomes the track’s mantra, its melody doubled with a sublime synth tone that makes everything work out in the end. All of a sudden the album ends, practically in mid-sentence. The stark close recalls a dream sequence, or the crystallized mental conflict of an instant. What’s a more useful image for this EP than just that - a moment - the moment between cities-expanded.

Track List:
1. Rollin
2. Let It Go
3. Drums Please
4. Broken Heart

DJ Rashad, Rollin' EP, Hyperdub Records, Review
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

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