One of the immediately endearing things about Chicago’s footwork scene is its ability to take in just about any other genre and make it its own. Da Mind Of Traxman, Traxman’s debut LP for Planet Mu, is as solid an example of this as you’re likely to find. Traxman has been releasing music since at least 1996, and his tracks embody a similar kind of old-school functionality to the work of peers like DJ Spinn and DJ Rashad. This isn’t to suggest that they lack the madcap experimentalism of the city’s younger crop of producers, however. It’s more that Traxman is capable of picking any sample he chooses and disfiguring it to suit his own purposes, and Da Mind Of Traxman accordingly bounces from source to source with ease.
But again, fans of the moodier sounds of other Planet Mu footwork releases — namely the Bangs & Works compilations (especially producers like DJ Elmoe and DJ Trouble) and those by DJ Nate — might take issue with how rough and ready Traxman’s productions are. They aren’t necessarily coldly detached, but they’re clearly built with the scene’s dancers in mind. The album, in other words, feels more like a beat tape than as weighty a portrait as its title suggests. Da Mind Of Traxman might not show what the mind of Traxman is actually like, but it makes up for it by demonstrate what that mind is capable of.
Each track is largely defined by Traxman’s choice of samples. There are a few gaudy missteps — the monologue on “Let There Be Rockkkkk” quickly wears thin — but for the most part Traxman proves extremely adept at transforming his samples with a limited palette of untreated drums. Exemplary of this is “Conq Dat Bitch,” in which the title phrase is rapidly chopped in time with the snares, sounding like it’s getting riddled with bullets. “Sound Filed” almost reminds of grime production in its economic, bleeping arrangement, while the floating kalimbas and squiggling synths of “Footworkin On Air” perfectly capture the ethereal flexibility of the footwork dancer. Other sources include old-school acid (“1988″), Prince (“Lifeeeee Is For Ever”), and Foster Sylvers (“Setbacks”), and all are subject to similarly hyperactive treatments. With glossy foreign footwork adaptations seemingly outnumbering those of Chicago producers, Da Mind Of Traxman is all the more vital, proving just how adventurous the forefathers of the style can be.