Chicago footwork producer DJ Hank takes inspiration from his bike-messenger job for Traffic Control | Music Review | Chicago Reader

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Chicago footwork producer DJ Hank takes inspiration from his bike-messenger job for Traffic Control


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On the title track of DJ Hank’s debut 12-inch, Traffic Control (Sophomore Lounge), car alarms bleat atop thickets of overactive drums, occasional blown-out hi-hats, hiccuping bass, and a tasteful array of hand claps. At first listen, “Traffic Control” might rattle you just like a real-life car alarm, but thankfully Hank understands how to rearrange anxiety-inducing electronic screams into joyous blasts. A North Carolina native, he’s lived in Chicago for nearly a decade, paying his bills as a bike messenger while ingraining himself in the city’s footwork scene. He’s tight with many members of foundational footwork collective Teklife (for example, he contributed to Boylan’s September EP, Renegade), and though he’s not a member himself, he’s clearly learned from Teklife how to flit between pop ecstasy and battle-centric percussive arrhythmia. On Traffic Control, Hank colors a broad palette of dance styles with a blur of everyday street-transit blare, often rendering even the harshest sounds into smooth, glistening melodies while retaining the bite of his hard-hitting percussion. The album’s diversity of genres skews toward footwork, and the energy and noise in these frenetic tracks evoke the rush of zooming through the dense heart of the city on a bike, dodging pedestrians and threading the needle between cars and buses. In Hank’s music, the bustle doesn’t slow you down—it energizes you.   v

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