Just as John Fahey used dissonance to summon the avant-garde to a hoedown, Chicago’s mutant juke producers have lured the same audience to community dance events on the west side of town by using their samplers like Basho and Kottke used their guitars. Both are pop-cultural reversals that both Gibson and Reynolds would appreciate: entropic systems rampantly feeding upon themselves — juke hasn’t simply extended hip-hop’s co-opted aesthetic of détournement, stripping house of its soul brother bloatware, so much as smashed it into the ground, again and again, like the feet on its cartoonish, renegade, fast-forward zoetrope boglers as they evade thousands of imaginary bullets. This is hip house for the grandchildren of Steve Reich and Edmond Honda — vocal samples Hyaku Retsu Harite‘d into various states of misrecognition; pneumatic snare patterns punctuated by the bitcrunch of absurdly transposed claps; a seismic ubiquity of disruptive low-end weight.
If juke took ghetto house to the gym, Flight Muzik takes it into therapy. House itself, rather like neoliberalism, is undergoing a crisis of faith: juke as “the gum underneath house music’s shoes.” Chicago can begin again only by “finishing wrecking what it knows to be wreckage,” to borrow a phrase from Evan Calder Williams, prophet of salvagepunk. Juke may have extended the logic of ghetto house’s porno-minimalist box jam nightlife, to the extent of dragging the scene out of the clubs, but Flight Muzik tracks this logic to its horizon of violent, drugged bodies living on the edge — this is a nervous listen, an anxiety fidget of arthritic bass lines fluttering against ribcages, strident Chicago nervous in gangster twilight. Tracks like “Freakazoid” (come on and wind me up) punctuate thundering tom-tom rolls with snare crunches across the pitch spectrum: rhythm trax corrupted.
Its most memorable moments collapse high-living OG braggadocio like so many Cabrini-Green high rises in absurdist bait-and-switch sleights: the wild 100s is a zone of play and forage as well as an apparently deregulated zone of drugs, sex and cruelty. “Rep Yo Clique” skews the swagger of a brassy boxing ring entrance theme by smearing over it with a bastardized version of the “Streets of Cairo.” Perhaps Diamond is familiar with the tune’s own muddied compositional history and its use by the Little Egypt bellydancers who were the first to bring raqs sharqi to the USA at the 1893 Chicago World Fair? Elsewhere, the laserbait rave stabs of “Wreckage” are phase-shifted into geiger counter percolations; “Decoded” is a truly odd bit of eskibeat that takes in eurotrance and hair metal; “Vibe” mixes howling Spaghetti Western guitar and subterranean skank.
While these headbanging transpositions are points of ignition, Surrealist bullets fired into the crowd thronging the circle, they make a mess for analysis, piecemeal description conjuring visions of big beat’s gurning car boot wackiness. Diamond, of course, finds his own use for things, treating movies, video games, soul, disco and rap like the cultural detritus they are, but the sonic is tied to the self-flagellating needs of the circle where the blank high of exhaustion (self-as-fuel) is hardwired into a vanity circuit of speed and spectacle (self-as-advertisement). Although there remains something disarming about the ease with which Diamond subtly distorts familiar ghetto tropes, it is of the order of a serious medical condition rather than a merry jape. We’re in a scl/erotic, retromanic age. Entropy and decay is fetishized.
Hitherto juke has lacked a document that decisively frames its viral, granular impact. A caveat: juke, like all body music, is at heart nihilistic — hence B McGhee’s assertion that “Footwork doesn’t require the deconstruction of its would-be critics, and it doesn’t seek a consummation in the inner emotional worlds of its listeners.” Whether juke can proceed to thrive in the fallout of this, its most compelling experiment, or whether it will play the role of a vanishing mediator, choking on its own tail like Captain Lou Albano, is at best an open question — and always the likeliest impasse to confront any technics of running on the spot.