It’s been a couple of years since Marquis Hawkes first arrived on the scene courtesy of the Cabrini Green EP for Glasgow’s own Dixon Avenue Basement Jams, and brought with him his take on a particular breed of dance floor ready Chicagoan House, heavy on the tumbling toms, soulful vocal snips and with a searing acid line never far away. Since then he has become a totem of sorts for DABJ; three more EPs have followed as Hawkes refined his sound, distilling it down into the purest jacking kill-juice and even though he has moved out into more straight Technoid territory under his Juxta Position guise, he seems driven to return time and time again to the thing he does so well.
Outta This Hood, his first release as Marquis Hawkes for a label not named Dixon Avenue, is – at first listen – a continuation of the sound that got us to this point in the first place. Hawkes has always worn his influences proudly and Outta This Hood is no different in that respect. The vibe of countless records released across a host of those early Chicago labels is present as always, with a particular nod to Dance Mania’s Ghetto-House style that lit up so many dancefloors at the turn of the century and continues to prey on the minds of a generation of producers today.
Outta This Hood is a stripped down slice of jacking funk, sharp and tactile, singular in its purpose. The roll of the kicks and toms pound out a tight, boneshaking groove below the wild oscillations of the lead. It’s like a Robert Armani track with all the extraneous fat trimmed off – not that there ever was any fat on most of Armani’s tracks – until we’re left with the bobbing, lean physique of a Funk Boxer. Talking Shit is looser, a collision of low-end rhythms and snares that accompany the vocal down into sweatbox country. It doesn’t feel as complete as Outta This Hood – free jamming rhythm tools often feel a little lacking compared to their more rounded peers – but it does the job and no mistake – pitch this one up late night and watch the place burn, I reckon.
Peanut, whilst still spikey with its influences, also seems to pick something up from the days when European Techno was beginning to get up a head of steam. It’s less strictly Chicago, and has an affinity with the sort of stuff that Djax Upbeats used to do so well. That is no real surprise, mind you, considering how often that label used to mine the sounds of Detroit and Chicago to great effect. Clattering percussion and huge honking squawks lead the way into stupid, dumb thrills and what it lacks in smarts it more than makes up for in fun.
Like Dat, however, feels like something of a departure and might well be all the better for it. On first play, it might seem fairly standard Hawkes material, but there is a tenderness in the unexpected strings, swelling above the crunching groove and washing over the tight, proto-rave chords that hold the piece together. The vocals too, aerated by reverb and misted by the delay, add a disarmingly haunting trill to the raucousness of the proceedings. It might not entirely be a departure, but there is something new, something different here. I think it might be one of the best things he has done to date. Soulful, Jacking House.