Saturday, December 3, 2022 Dec 3, 2022
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Music

What’s Jakbeat? Style Pioneer, Traxx aka Melvin Oliphant III, Is In Denton To Show You

Traxx bases part of his approach as a reaction against uniform modern methodology, format, and medium.
By Chris Mosley |
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Still relatively new in the world of local dance weeklies, “Denton is Burning” has been described as an “LGBTQI-friendly” dance night at Rubber Gloves, but just about every night as this place is similarly all-inclusive. I’m assuming that the title is a reference to Paris is Burning, the acclaimed 1990 documentary on New York “drag ball” culture. If that’s the case, it should be a fun night for everyone, as promised.

The DJs usually include Oleg Belogorsky and Tiago Varjao, but there is a completely different lineup this evening, a varied, controversial, and noteworthy bunch. Headlining tonight is Chicago’s Traxx aka Melvin Oliphant III, who is known as a pioneer of the “Jakbeat” style of house music, and who caught a lot of historically important moments in the development of House music firsthand while growing up in The Windy City.

“Jakbeat” has been defined in a variety of ways, but luckily, Traxx’s own imprint, Nation Records, provides their very own manifesto on the label’s website:

In detail what defines jakbeat tracks has a lot to do with the jacking feeling and little to do with labels, aesthetics, or any list of synthesizers.

The Jack sound exists in an endless assortment of musics.

For a while it was generally known that you do not need a Roland TB303 to make ‘acid’. But as other fashions took control of our house that fundamental understanding was lost…and the aesthetic took over.

A contrived image was left with the masses.

Jakbeat as it has come to be known is a not just a hash back to a golden age of house, it’s not just a mess of drum beats and synths and it’s not just something that is created at random.

“Jakbeat” is a state of mind and different level of musical consciousness.

This sound was influenced from the early inception of dance music.

As a collective we want to produce an impressive slew of no-holds-barred full on electronic/synth rhythm tracks resisting the current trend for an over-calculated digital sound which has retained the musicality in keeping it very real.

It’s that last sentence that has generated controversy around the musical  style. Like other artists I personally admire or find particularly interesting, Traxx seems to base part of his approach as a reaction against uniform modern methodology, format, and medium.

But the path taken by Traxx is not for everyone, as evidenced by this conversation-sparking review of the Traxx full-length LP, Faith, by the Chicago Reader’s Steve Mizek a few years back. In it, Mizek speaks of “rough edges” that “don’t add any charm,” how it is “marred by a murky mix,” and also describes the record as “defiantly unpolished.” In the most telling complaint, he describes the lack of production gloss thusly:

These lapses in fidelity are especially frustrating because Oliphant works by choice under many of the same technical limitations that faced the forefathers of house, out of admiration for the rigor required of producers who use analog gear. By opting not to conceal the evidence of his hands at work, he seems to be celebrating the flaws in his production—the way black-metal bands use fiendishly lo-fi sound to establish their kvlt bona fides.

Though it’s not meant as a compliment, the reviewer has given some true insight into Traxx’s character. This is a house artist that puts Throbbing Gristle on his mixes, and lists Ian Curtis and Cobain as influences, along with the expected nod to Theo Parrish. Take some time to read one of his interviews for a refreshingly unusual philosophy on music, or just take advantage of the fact that he’ll be in Denton on a Monday night. A strong supporting lineup includes Spanish-originated and Berlin-based Alienata, along with locals R9, and Convextion. See recent video of a performance by Convextion at Bryan Street Tavern, by going here.

Pictured: Traxx performing live. Photo by Rene Passet.