DJ Earl Credit: Courtesy the Artist

Since Chicago footwork producer and Teklife member DJ Earl dropped his breakthrough 2016 debut, Open Your Eyes, he’s traveled far outside the city and branched out into different sounds. In 2017, Earl dropped a genre-splicing dance full-length called 50 Backwoods with in-demand Brooklyn producer Nick Hook, and this year his collaborations have included the hip-hop EPs Paintings on the Porch (with Detroit MC Sheefy McFly) and Black Dobson (with Chicago rapper and childhood friend Akem Eshu). Earl found inspiration for his second footwork album, Bass + Funk & Soul (Moveltraxx), in Brazil; as he recently told Resident Advisor podcast host Martha Pazienti Caidan, a Brazilian promoter he worked with introduced him to the country’s funk music and gifted him a trove of digital files to sample. To make the new record, Earl worked those sound fragments into tapestries informed by his lissome yet brawny style—he can spotlight ultra-smooth melodies that add a layer of sophisticated polish while retaining footwork’s complex rhythms and the cast iron toughness of its percussion. The honeyed vocal samples that skitter through “Wrk Dat Body” tame the track’s cutting hi-hats and insistent bass line, which evokes the body-massaging throb you get from leaning on a wall of speakers at a loud concert. Earl also filtered his taste in classic Black pop into Bass + Funk & Soul, so that these tracks demonstrate footwork’s place in the pantheon of American music.   v