Sich Mang psychedelically escalates footwork music | Music Column | Chicago Reader

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Sich Mang psychedelically escalates footwork music

Chicago duo mixes footwork with brain work to form something called “wurkstep”


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Correction: This story has been amended to correctly reflect that Rand Sevilla's name was misspelled.

The style of music that Rand Sevilla and Eric Lee Gale produce together as Sich Mang is called "wurkstep," and so far they're the only ones in the world making it. A large part of that has to do with the fact that the pair made up the name themselves, and so far its use is limited to the description field of one track on their SoundCloud page, a remix of Danish producer Kid Kishore's underappreciated 2008 single, "Klap Perker." (Prior to that they experimented with "jukestep," "wurkstyle," and "wurkkore," among other neologisms.)

The other reason no one else out there is making wurkstep is that it probably hasn't occurred to anyone to boil down Chicago juke and footwork music and dip it in a vat of garishly polychromatic psychedelia.

Despite a decent amount of mainstream attention directed at footwork dancing in recent years, the music itself has been the almost exclusive provenance of the young, black producers on the south and west sides who make it and the young, black dancers who know that while it's possible to footwork to other types of music, doing so violates the unique symbiosis between the moves and the sounds. Footwork music on its own can be tough for outsiders to decode—it blasts along at 160 beats per minute, usually offers only the hint of a 4/4 rhythm, and almost always replaces actual melody with weird, detuned samples repeated to hypnotic effect.

On the other hand, the challenges that footwork music offers the listener are the same ones that tend to drive electronic music geeks mad with pleasure. (A lot of it sounds like something Aphex Twin wishes he'd come up with.) Just over a year ago the British imprint Planet Mu, owned by geeky electronic musician Mike Paradinas (aka μ-Ziq), began issuing the first official, label-backed releases in footwork history, and there's since been a steady uptick in the influence of footwork on tracks originating outside the footwork scene—not to mention coverage of the genre in outlets such as Pitchfork and the Fader.

Footwork seems to be following the same trajectory as a number of dance music styles that originated within relatively small, out-of-the-way social groups—and then exploded from there with the help of keyed-in bloggers and DJs. (Cf. dubstep's evolution from chilly, cerebral head music to jock jam.) It seems inevitable that footwork would eventually be adopted by artsy, countercultural types, or as Sevilla puts it, "drug addicts like me," who are also into, say, aesthetically demanding Tumblrs and limited edition cassette tapes, both of which Sich Mang also produces. (They're currently at work on a split cassette with another local duo, the Drum, for Catholic Tapes.)

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