The rise of footwork as a formidable sub-genre of electronic music over the last few years has raised an interesting question: how do you listen to the stuff? On one level, the Chicago-borne sound is purely functional; its high-BPM tempos, disorienting bass lines, and hypnotically repetitive approach to sampling form the perfect soundtrack for the juke-derived footwork style of dancing, which favors fast feet and athletic skill. Near the top of this decade, footwork caught the collective ear of the always-hungry-for-something-new UK dance scene: Forward-thinking label Planet Mu delivered a smattering of footwork-associated releases near the end of 2010, including the first volume of the scene-surveying Bangs & Works compilation. Much of the footwork music created around that time was fascinating, inspiring—and, as home-listening material, maddening.
Footwork's relative inaccessibility suggested that it would become a niche concern in the constantly changing realm of dance music, but it stayed in the conversation, as solid releases from veterans of the sound, boundary-pushing newcomers, and canny genre-fusion outsiders pushed things in more musical and distinctly individual directions. All these roads lead to Double Cup, the new album from Rashad Harden, who produces as DJ Rashad. A gorgeous, invigorating collection of tracks that places equal importance on melody alongside rhythmic texture, Double Cup is unquestionably the strongest footwork-related LP since the genre was introduced to a wider audience. This stuff would kill on a dancefloor, but you don't have to watch anyone's feet to appreciate what's on display here.