Foodman, Japanese footwork’s biggest star, didn’t find fans through pop smarts but through sheer skill.
Foodman, Japanese footwork’s biggest star, didn’t find fans through pop smarts but through sheer skill. Early releases like Couldwork and the excellent Doguu EP were replete with sounds you might’ve never heard before but understood took great skill to make. Like a sound-effects artist in an alien studio, he threw robots, insects, deliberately obnoxious synth trumpets, and occasional snatches of blissed-out jazz into a machine that seemingly pulled them apart into their constituent atoms. Like the best footwork, his music was as weightless as it was weird.
It might strike one as odd that Foodman’s signed to Diplo’s label Mad Decent. But it’s easy to forget that before finding the pop formula most agreeable with Spotify algorithms (he invented those chipmunk noises on every EDM-lite song), the producer epitomized the mid-‘00s’ more optimistic approach to the musical possibilities of the Internet, promoting Brazilian dancehall and favela funk and hiring his Sri Lankan-British protégé M.I.A. to rap about Third World violence over untreated Missy Elliott instrumentals. Could Foodman have tapped into those old hungers?
In case you were concerned: ODOODO, Foodman’s first release for Mad Decent, isn’t an adulterated version of the Foodman formula. It is, though, an example of the producer working in a more listener-friendly milieu than usual. While beats were usually more implied than felt on Foodman’s early work, most of these cuts are grounded in house beats or trap skitter and are easily identifiable with the scuzzy dance-music mutant known as “outsider house.” But while ODOODO is far less interesting than most Foodman releases, his idiosyncrasies remain intact.
“Dege,” the intro, flits insouciantly between trap and a leaden house beat subducted by the long sustain of its hi-hats. These are recognizable mainstream sounds, but the way Foodman shifts between the two to alternate sensations of weight and weightlessness isn’t something we hear very often—nor are those leering, out-of-tune chords. “Otokogi” sounds a little bit like reggaeton, but it has less in common with what we hear on a Major Lazer album than the “deep dembow” of DJ Python’s Dulce Compañia. DJs will eat it up, but you’ll never hear it blasting out of a car.
“Moyashi Kids” is a nice simulation of cartoon mayhem, its plinks and plops tying Foodman’s work to the rich tradition of Foley art as the beat seems to debate with itself in real time which rhythm to settle into. “Colosseum” relies on those untreated, 2-D FL Studio string sounds we hear on so many low-budget club hits and surrounds them with wanton percussion and sharp digital interference. “246” suspends a playful vibraphone over a 2-step beat, adding manic hair-metal guitar and the sampled bark of a dog, and is still one of the more restrained tracks here. “Fue” is from the post-Dilla textbook that turns instrumental hip-hop into anatomy class. It should please Adult Swim’s bumper-music curators. Whether it’ll please Foodman fans is another story.