Thursday, May 19
Better than: Listening to deep sub-bass on laptop speakers.
Planet Mu has one of the more unique trajectories of any electronic dance label. Mike Paradinas founded it in the mid-’90s as a showcase for the sort of IDM he made as µ- Ziq. Several tracks took off from jungle’s clipping breakbeats and heaving sub-bass, but the relationship with jungle’s cultural matrix was minimal. But since the mid-’00s, when Paradinas began issuing serious dubstep singles (cf. Pinch’s “Qawwali”) and his more prankish understudies, Planet Mu has found a sweet spot between weed and Ritalin.
Women’s Studies, the new album by Chicago DJ, producer, and label head (of Sleazetone Records) Chrissy Murderbot, is a model of the latter-day Planet Mu aesthetic. Born Chris Shively in Kansas City, Murderbot is an aggressive champion of all kinds of dance music—see his amazing My Year of Mixtapes project (52 weeks, 52 DJ sets, covering everything from Kraftwerk and its progeny and synth pop to then-recent selections of UK funky and dubstep)—particularly juke, Chicago’s aggressively minimalist reworking of ghetto house (think Chi-town legends like Paul Johnson or DJ Funk). Women’s Studies has plenty of juke (cf. “Heavy Butt”), but it expands outward and upward in ways you’d expect from a listener as omnivorous as Murderbot—not to mention someone signed to a legendary IDM label.
That was manifest in Murderbot’s two-hour set. Like a lot of laptop DJs, he weaved in a lot of familiar samples (or remixes of well-known material—the difference can be blurry): among the tracks that popped out of the mix were Bell Biv DeVoe’s “Poison,” Rhythim Is Rhythim’s “Strings of Life,” Robin S.’s “Show Me Love” (rendered faster and stompier), Hardrive’s “Deep Inside,” Cajmere’s “It’s Time for the Perculator,” and Cutty Ranks’s “Limb by Limb.” But it’s how you play that counts, and Murderbot kept the pace bubbling without letup—and that evenness of pace was at odds with the room. Many of the attendees were friends of the artist (or his opener, Machinedrum, whose methods were much the same but with more of an emphasis on dubstep and classic jungle: Q Project’s “Champion Sound,” yes), and I have to admit—I felt kind of bad for the folks at the private party downstairs who’d wandered up and couldn’t quite get a handle on the music, though a couple of women gamely booty-danced. Then again, however schizzy Murderbot’s music can be, that’s largely the point.
Critical bias: I’ve been friendly with Chris for a year or so now, after interviewing him over IM for a feature.
Overheard: [during second track of Machinedrum’s opening set] “Hey! That’s a remix of a song I made! I haven’t heard it yet.”—C. Murderbot
Also overheard: A waitress asked me what the deal with the crowd was: she was on bottle-service duty and, as she noted, might as well have stayed home.
Random notebook dump: Is that [Hot Butter’s] “Popcorn”? Gawd.