Breakage :: This Too Shall Pass (Bassbin, 2CD / 3x12inch)

1345 image 1(07.26.06) If you know Breakage only for his Planet Mu 12″, you should be aware this album is another story, as This Too Shall Pass can’t fit at all into the narrow limits of drum-funk. This definition describes better what Paradox, Equinox, Senses and Nucleus do, but the man Breakage seems to escape from the boundaries of ultra fine drum editing. You can evince the difference since the very first track “Lead Me On,” where the crucial elements are the sparse drums, rarified almost to a dub tempo, an obsessive circling vocal sample and a two note bass that give the listener the sensation of weightless floating. Some other tracks in the album are more reminiscent of primordial techstep, of stuff such as Doc Scott or No U Turn: “Morning Star” is a sublime example of how to merge aggressive reece bass and dark sampling with dub breaks, but later on “Chump Inc.” and “Shadow” are definitely odes to Optical’s tunes around ’96 – ’98, with their two step beat and a sub-audible bassline.

Eliminating technical words, this is creepy, nocturnal, minimal drum’n’bass music that is still emotional because there’s always some recognizable hook that gets stuck in your head. The production skills are a thousand times improved since Breakage’s early EPs on Reinforced; every drum sounds crystal clear and now he’s got the skills to make both 170 BPM tunes that sound much slower due to a gloomy setting, and also frantic amen rollers with a springtime feel like “Ruff Dub” (very mixable with some junglish Boxcutter). “Untitled Jungle” is probably my favorite track, inheriting elements from “Shadow Boxing” and The Prototype Years, demonstrating how it’s still possible to recycle the roots of the genre with inventive and fresh style. After the final smooth cavalcade of “Eve” we’re blessed with a reworked (ghost) version of “Morning Star” that features a weird beat with hundreds of kicks and a single clap per minute. Oh, and there’s the second CD. My opinion is not to consider this second disc of downtempo material when buying This Too Shall Pass, not because it’s bad, but only because it’s less distinctive.

Klute released his last two albums with a bonus disc of breaks/techno stuff, and simply they couldn’t compare with the exquisite, unmistakable d’n’b he made; his slow tempo journeys didn’t sound like Klute, it was like they could have been produced by anyone else. This is not the case of Breakage, since he’s more used to keep a soft pace these downtempo pieces keep almost the same feelings found in the d’n’b side, but not every track is memorable. “Stomp” does exactly what it says on the tin with the subtle help of creepy acid, very well conceived tune, but for example “Hill St” sounds like a trillion other trip hop exercises; “A Song For The Simple” has a nice funky groove, “Jazzy” explores the four-to-the-floor but it’s too lounge for my taste. “Black Sunshine” recalls all the hypnotic vibes found in “Lead Me On;” distant drums, warm bass and tantric vocal samples that mesmerize at first listening; this is surely the most interesting piece on this disc, and in fact there’s also a ghost alternate version at the very end of the last track. Anyway, I insist to focus on the drum’n’bass productions because you all know that Breakage is a true talent in the good ole jungle, after all if you want the vinyl version you’ll get only the fast tunes.

This Too Shall Pass is out now on Bassbin.

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