FIn recent years, new musical genres have generated as much invention and sweat as footwork, the Chicago-born dance style where house tempos are sped up like a sadistic personal trainer to the point where they seem to stutter. and gasp. The choppy samples and snap of rap drums add structure to the mix, although the bass pulling away from the cornea threatens to cancel everything out again.

Only the most agile and athletic dancers can truly keep up with this auditory pandemonium, making the style popular among showboating dance teams. The end is dear to the gothic chin bars of the avant-electronic scene as well, which means your average footwork event is likely to contain both the most and the least awkward people you can imagine. Chicago heroes such as RP Boo and the late DJ Rashad went global and released landmark albums in the early 2010s, and the curation of UK label Planet Mu helped keep the scene healthy outside of the Midwest (as well as Painful Enlightenment, he also released DJ Manny’s excellent Signals in My Head last month). In an age when the big pianos and vocal lines of Chicago house are used by lazy producers to signify euphoria rather than generate it, the footwork is a reminder of how progressive and rich dance music can be. emotions. And with her second album, Jana Rush goes further than ever.

Beginning in the late 90s, the career of the Chicago producer progressed in spurts alongside college studies to later work as a chemical engineer, medical technician, and firefighter. All along, she struggled with self-esteem: “I was ashamed of being me, I just didn’t love myself,” she explained to Wire magazine this month. Painful Enlightenment is therefore a psychological question – probably closer to sound art than to house, but still brutally funky.

The masterpiece piece is Suicidal Ideation, nine minutes of its nightmare depicting a spirit at war with itself and its surroundings. Over clicks and whirrs and a footwork bassline, there’s the kind of bark of pain and dismay a video game character emits upon touching a pool of lava, and some famous rapper ordering you to. “Bow to both”: imagine the maniacal pop-art creations of Jeff Koons or Takashi Murakami engraved by Goya. Its fade, suggesting that this melee is everlasting and that a veil is simply drawn over it, is an ominous finishing touch.

One of her recurring samples is a whimper of female sexual pleasure, but one of the most actor-like and pornographic genre: a suggestion that true pleasure and liberation is always beyond reach. On another insanely good track, G-Spot, there are more porn samples, and here the satisfaction feels much more real – although the slow, unreadable piano chords can suggest sadness as well as excitement. , and the porn is of course full of unreliable narrators.

So sex can be a form of work, and it is this feeling of physical and emotional work that occurs at the same time that gives Rush’s album its terrifying load. The descriptor “industrial techno” is often applied to dance music that evokes machines, but factories rarely operate at its four-four pace. The tracks in Rush Disorientation and Intergalactic Battle are more precise, with robotic processes that periodically change gears and only set in briefly: an evocation of both the real industry and a multitasking spirit performing its hustle and bustle.

The cover of Painful Enlightenment.

Disturbed is the most obvious piece of footwork here and an instant genre classic, but it’s still loaded with terrible human feelings. It takes the type of fiery romantic supplication done by Chicago house singers like Jamie Principle and turns it into an emotional urgency, with a Loleatta Holloway-style scream repeated until it looks like she grabs an ex-lover. by the lapels, the hair all over the place: “I need you! I need you! “

But with its rhythmic freedom, you could say that this album is as much a strain of emancipated and political Chicago jazz music as its dance tracks, and Rush makes it explicit with some of his samples. Moanin ‘opens the album with a looping saxophone moan as if played via superhuman circular breathing, evoking the bawdy bacchanalia of the swing era, while the jazz guitar on the title track is like a glitch simulation. of a smoky bar. Mynd Fuc is free jazz made on software. An obvious comparison is label mate Jlin, another Midwestern producer who has realized the potential of footwork to tell deeper truths, but her waltz times and Asian influences make her very different from Rush, whose work is more abstract, minimal and firmly rooted in its city.

“The harshness of sounds and frequencies is an interpretation of my aggressiveness as well as my quest for empowerment,” Rush said. Painful Enlightenment is a disturbing visionary album that is more specifically about anxiety, depression, and overwork than songwriting, as it does so through the form itself. As Rush’s commentary suggests, this act of creation means that she has been – and we can be – a victor in these fights.