Honestly, this is what Mu should have released first. Beginning their footwork campaign with a single artist release from DJ Nate was particularly risky, the extreme DIY aesthetic proving rather—let's be diplomatic here—challenging especially when stretched over a twenty-four track album. The wider scope of Bangs & Works allows enough variety for an album-length experience, and makes stressing the musical merit of juke and footwork its mission.
Many of the scene's heavyweights appear, with DJs Spinn, Rashad, Roc and RP Boo providing an accessible foundation for the compilation's more unfriendly moments. Rashad and Boo are the compilation's learned experts, with the former's tracks floating on impeccably pillowy sub-bass and the latter's spare, bloodshot paranoia meticulously measured and decidedly hi-fi next to the slippery outbursts favoured by others. Spinn provides the unlikely highlight with the future dread of "2020," subverting footwork tropes by favouring subtlety and mournful synths over staccato voices. Of course, the more experimental, extreme side of footwork is well-represented: patience-testers like Tha Pope's "All the Things" (where a vocal sample is put through a laundry wringer atop drum machine acrobatics) or DJ Nate's "He Ain't About It" alternately thrill and annoy.
What becomes apparent over listening to a straight hour of this stuff is the deceptive complexity and depth of it all: these producers aren't just chopping vocals and splaying drum machines. They're also doing the same with two decades worth of dance music dialogue and influence. There's the obvious lineage sprouting out of early Detroit ghetto bass and Chicago juke, a spin on a spin. But the physicality of the bass is both powerful and low enough to fit comfortably in with dubstep, and the extreme tempo and frantic percussive interplay accidentally aligns it with drum & bass and electro quite nicely. There's an obvious connection with hip-hop, and some tunes sound like they could have been taken off of an amateur rapper's mixtape. Sometimes the music just sounds completely of its own world, juggling sharpened fragments without ever getting sore hands.
However you view it, Planet Mu has done a service to a scene that seems inherently resistant to documentation. Bangs & Works may not be the same manifesto that insiders might have picked. But it's a comprehensive overview of some of the main players in an insular scene that should hopefully lead those interested by its contents to further discoveries.