Finally, James Boyle aka Breakage let another series of music fallith upon us. Originally, Breakage has London roots, and has bee an extremely important fixture in the world of drum and bass for well over 20 years now. With releases on some of the most important and influential labels to ever exist( Reinforced/ Bassbin/ Critical/ Breakin/ Inperspective/ Scientific Wax/ Emcee/ Planet-Mu/ Digital Soundboy and now, INDEX) . Breakage has definitely his name in the history of drum and bass.
Working alongside some of the heaviest hitters in jungle music. The music has always had its own set of tools to operate with. People like Threshold , Shy FX , & David Rodigan have been in and out of the studio with Boyle over the years. Having those titans making music with you, can be a very influential, spiritual, down right heavy mental experience. Blending the likes of many different heritage culture’s into one piece of art, is apart of the whole creative experience. The foundations of the culture and continuing expansion of self, through sound, has been something Breakage has always exemplified in his work.
This new release brings back some of the classic paring of the past, to do it all over again. For this release, Breakage has paired up with Threshold, Shy FX, Dub Phizix, and Dean Barrett ( engineer for RT2J by Chase n Status/ Rudely Lovesong Shy FX, Goldust Dj Fresh). The diversity of this EP is very noticeable, as is the sound engineering. On top of those impressive aspects of making an album. You add a remix of a classic Breakage joint “As we Enter” by Break, and you unleash a monolith of a record.
First up on the trackless is Valhalla . This tune right away is setting you up for the journey at hand. You step up to a synth that seems to wobble in and out of key. Creating a disorienting feeling running through you. There is a whisper that pans around your head as the minimal intro sends a partially chilling vibe into the room. You get a moment to breathe, and then this just takes off. Classic hopping amens, with realistic drum tones lift this one into the stratosphere. Taking me back to the origins of drum funk. The interpretation of dnb you would find on his classic releases from Inperspective/Breakin . Little bleeps, water drips, and echo’s fill the backing soundscape. While natural basslines scoop into the low end and warm up the entire plate, without pulling all the breathe out of the room. Adding a couple classic female vocal fx with a digestible amount of reverb and delay, and BAM, classic Breakage drum funk. Definitely comes from the same headspace as his tune with Threshold ” Round One” on Reinforced. This tune gets in with restraint, but then once the drums lift off, its a short and steppin ride to the finish line. Where the tune does its work and sets you up for the next bullet in the chamber.
Now that the mood has been established. Next up, As we Enter( Break rmx) comes cross, and we give the massive what it always is hungry for. Another fantastic interpretation of a drum and bass anthem by the man of the hour, Break. Someone who has been literally re-writing jungle history right in front of us. He has been apart of re-working Dillinja, Total Science, ShyFx, and Lenzeman lately. And now we get his take of this tune. Which was originally released on the “At the Controls” lp on Index Recordings. This tune sets you into the same vibes as the og. There is even the warm feel of a vinyl patch that keeps it sounding very classic. The hats lead you into the synth’s and vibraphone lines swoop back and forth. With diva vocal tones dating around the headspace, you hear that sample, “AS WE ENTA!!” . Something so familiar to a seasoned junglist. Put forth a clash sample to take the edge off, and comes the plumes down the roller coaster’s first drop. Break does a fantastic job taking the basslines to lower hertz, and bringing it to a grimier space. Between the relentless layering of amens, an infinite amount of time stretched fills and drum licks, and a brigade of wooden percussion accents. The drums an edits are the truth with this one. The concentration of this piece seems to still hold true to the vibe of the original. Tasteful, funky, not too in your face, and completely translating a heavier, modern version of the og. Watch the backside( second half of the tune ) though. The edits get pretty creative and the switch ups are totally worth letting this whole tune blast in a mix or in a club.
Jah sits comfortably in the third position on the trackless. Coming right away with the vibes that Breakage became known for. Super heavy amen ladden tunes that keep your focus on that ride cymbal and syncopation between sweeping snares and tiny amen edits coming from every direction. This one really brings me to his releases on Bassbin/Reinforced era of his discography. The same feeling I took from “So Mars”/ Wheezer/ Bring back” . Which all are a beautiful vision of the world where dub/ rocksteady/jungle/atmospheric music come together under the same family of funk. This tune was engineered to bring us into the middle of the dancefloor, screaming for the reload. You have all the elements you want in a Breakage tune. The jah sample echoing from side to side, pounding bell rides, bleep patterns creating motion, super heavy 808’s and classic basstones rumbling the entire time. But there overall engineering and production of this one is what I hear as being the upgrade to the patent. Everything seems crisper, cleaner, and better balanced than before. Along with some darker, more updated synth additions and crunchy flanged/phased metal reverberations. This meets your expectations as a fan, but is a peak into where Breakage is wanting to take us next with sound design.
Wrapping up the party is “B Side Bubbler” . It is exactly what the title claims it to be. Definitely a b-side, and most certainly holds onto those “bubblin and flexin tonight” vibes. This one is pretty straight forward. A consistent classic amen pattern that doesn’t really break away or become to edited. A timeless jungle choon, made with a more stylized engineering perspective. The focus is on the “Bubble”, which is the sound frequency the wobbling bassline provides. This is a good example of how you can create a running dance floor vibe, without the addition of 75 tracks of excessive layering. This tune can function perfectly with a minimal amount of tracking, and still hold it down. On an EP where many flavors were being blended together, exhibiting growth in style, Bubbler is a homage to the classic jungle sound that got people like Breakage, and myself, grew up listening to. So all the nostalgia and “feels” are real with cut.
I like this record. It’s been almost 2 years since Breakage has given us more than a single to cop. And since going to INDEX , things have been evolving. The tech behind creating albums is different. The dance floor is an ever evolving hydra. How we get the music from the studio to the fans seems to morph from month to month. Particularly in a time like right now. The thing to take away from this EP is , if its not broken, don’t try to fix it or re-invent it.
Use the people and the tools that you work with the best, and make the type of music you love to make. Trying to keep up with the trends to stay relevant can sometimes push artists to places we do not want to see them go. Staying in the old school just to be there like a badge of honor is fine, but there’s no progression in that lane. This record is a healthy balance of accepting and welcoming the challenges of updating your style, not compromising the integrity of what you want to make just to hit a chart. Without disappointing the people who’ve always appreciated what you have done. While making good quality jungle/drum and bass music with your friends, that will smash the dance floor. If there is a dance floor again.
This record is currently available on all platforms. And readily available from Breakage’s own band camp page.