As you might surmise from the above photo, Berlin DJ and producer Physical Therapy, real name Daniel Fisher, is something of a musical shape-shifter. He started off based in New York, DJing the stylistically-untethered party GHE20G0TH1K alongside the Fade to Mind and HBA, then progressed into production with the release of his debut EP on Hippos In Tanks, which featured a lush, jungle-indebted lead single. Before long, though, he'd packed up and moved to Berlin to immerse himself in house and techno.
Today, an affinity for stylistic polyamory and the leftfield still courses through everything Fisher puts his mind to. As the artist explained to Resident Advisor last year, "Even when I think I'm doing the most techno thing, it's gonna be weird." This penchant for the bizarre and unexpected certainly comes through on other EPs of Fisher's, like Waiting Room In DJ Hell and Yes, I'm Elastic, where the frame for "normal" dance tracks gets corroded and clouded with doses of striking strangeness.
2015 has found Fisher sporting as many hats as ever. As the founder of his own Allergy Season label, he put out a compilation of "genre-free dance music" called Side Effects May Include:, as well as delectably wonky EPs from Draveng and Max McFerren. Fisher also recently took up the pseudonym Kirk the Flirt & Peter Pressure to deliver a record of sparkling disco edits and Jersey house on Vancouver label 1080p. Now, he's making his debut on Liberation Technologies with another EP based around a single theme. It's called Hit The Breaks, and it's composed exclusively of breakbeats.
Aside from their incarnations in jungle and drum 'n bass—or your fantasies about dancing in that club from The Matrix—the rich history of breakbeats seems to get overlooked all too often by even the more knowledgable dance music heads. That being so, we thought it would be great to do an expressly non-definitive walkthrough from Fisher himself on some of his favorite tracks in the style. Below, he gives us his personal introduction to the annotated list of 15, in in no particular order, plus a bonus 50 (!) tracks after the jump.
"Breakbeats are the little black dress of dance music – they go with everything. Wikipedia very inaccurately states that 'breakbeats have been known and used for around a hundred years.' While this is deeply untrue, they have been around since the beginning of house and techno (and many of the genres that presage those). When I hear a breakbeat in the club I will always smile, get up up from the sidelines, nod to the dj, then slyly lean over the booth for a track ID; they just hold that special place in my heart.
When I first started making music, I had just quit my job as a chandelier installer and moved back in with my parents. With no drum machines or samplers and a serious lack of knowledge about how electronic music was actually made, breaks let me feel connected and a part of the music I was listening to and DJing. Getting my hands on a pack of breakbeats, I could drop one into a track and almost instantly, real club music appeared, as if by magic. It might be horrible, but it was a start.
Just postulating here, but I think this is why producers have always been drawn to breaks. As much as dance music is about experimentation and pushing limits, it's also about shortcuts. People used the 909 because it was cheaper than the Linn drum, they used samples because they couldnt recreate the source material, so on and so forth. Producers and DJs have always looked for the most efficient way to get the ideas in their head onto tape.
It took me a very long time after only working with sampled drum breaks to really start to learn how to program my own drums. But I will always go back to breaks, they still give me that thrill . Having said all that here is a list of some songs with breakbeats (please forgive and note for brevity's sake I have mostly skipped jungle and drum & bass which would require this list to be much longer than it already is.)
Please also note: this is not any kind of definitive or essential list on breaks—I really don't have the kind of expertise required to make a list like that. I hate lists like '20 techno songs you need to hear before you die.' For me, music is about the thrill of discovery. This is one man's journey – yours will be invariably your own!"
1) Soho - "Hot Music"
Pal Joey was introduced to me by my mentor Michael Magnan. Everything Joey ever produced has this unique vibe to it, streamlined deep house, but with a strange stiff swing and out of key samples breaking through the smooth sheen. I think this is from '89. iI has that stompy breakbeat feel that draws everyone to the genre, but it's so jazzy and hypnotic.
2) Pepe Bradock - "Peer Pressure"
Pepe Bradock is another producer with an unmistakeable sound, the scratches and skips in the song, the screeching horn sample. The breakbeat is the backbone but it's all about the details in this one. Nothing is ever straightforward in a Bradock track.
3) Sagat - "Fuck Dat (Raw Mix)"
I ganked this break for one of the tracks on Hit The Breaks. Exemplary NY-garage/hip-house vibes. It's jacking, swinging and the song completely restarts every minute or so. Not sure there is any vocal, or break for that matter, that better sums up New York.
4) 2 Bad Mice - "Bomb Scare"
Across the pond, breaks were being sped up faster and faster, but one of my favorite periods is when they were being used for ravey tracks like this. There really was no shame with sampling in this era -- throw a huge sample over some breaks and you have a rave hit. I really love this quick, formulaic way of making tracks -- if it makes people dance and gets them excited, that's all there is to it.
5) Frankie Bones - "Bass Kickin Beats"
This one isn't actually off the "Bonesbreaks" series but those records (and all early Frankie Bones tracks) were incredibly influential and are still massively fun to listen to and play. In his RA podcast, Frankie talks about how with a lot of the early records they were making in NYC, they would jack whole drum parts from other songs, throw them under different samples or instruments and cut them the next day. I love this appropriative attitude.
6) DJ Shadow - "The Number Song"
This album [Endtroducing…..] had me falling in love with breaks half a decade before I knew anything about house music. For a long time trip hop was aggressively uncool-- then more recently very hip. Ignoring all that, the album is brilliant with some of the most insane processing of breaks ever done.
7) Lost - "The Gonzo"
This is an instantly recognizable warehouse track by Nigel Fairman and Steve Bicknell. Trust me, even if you've never heard of it, you will know once you hear it. It has the kind of crispy breaks that make you envious as a producer. I don't know anything about Fairmen but Bicknell would go on to put out some of the best warehouse tracks ever in his "Lost Recordings" series on cosmic records.
8) Elite Gymnastics - "So Close To Paradise"
Elite Gymnastics are supremely underrated and overlooked when talking about the new crop of people using breakbeats. This track is distant and overdriven but with pristine breaks cutting through. This whole EP is incredible and to this day whenever I play a track from it people bum rush me to get a track ID.
9) Thomas Bangalter - "What To Do"
If I had to guess, this is the track I've DJ'd the most in my life. Not sure there's been a single gig that I haven't brought it out. It's just so fun and crunchy. Stuttering, updated chicago house techniques as appropriated by the French and in turn applied to a massive breakbeat.
10) Innerzone Orchestra - "Bug In The Bass Bin"
10+ minutes of Carl Craig playing screaming psychedelic synths over a banging jazzy break = the perfect song. Hugely influential track for a lot of people, myself included, though I didn't hear it till a good 15 years after it came out.
11) WK7 - "Higher Power (Hardcore PCK mix)"
Credit is definitely due to René Pawlowitz aka Shed aka Head High aka wk7 aka Zigg Gonzales who has been putting out consistently incredible breakbeat tracks on his Power House label. The tracks are deceptively simple and push soundsystems in just the right ways. If you listen to interviews with pawlowitz, he talks about how he doesn't try to find new sounds, that the music he makes could easily have come out in 1995. I think a lot of people working with breakbeats feel this way-- the music is immediately reminiscent of another time. you can keep trying to push those sounds but there is a good chance that any new development you think you came up was already done 20 years ago.
12) Rod Lee - Dance My Pain Away
Can't avoid talking about Baltimore when discussing breakbeats. They just found such an effective and infectious way of using them there. Those racks have had a huge influence on what I think of as the perfect club track.
13) DJ Sotofett Presents Bhakti Crew - "Sunrise Mix"
So many cool breakbeat tracks coming out of the Sex Tags UFO camp. This track by Sotofett is pure joy on top of some very crispy breaks.
14) Land of the Loops - Cruising Around In A Sentient Land
This is off an incredible album [Bundle Of Joy] by Land Of The Loops-- it defies genre categorization, living somewhere in between twee and trip hop. His ear for off-kilter sampling and breakbeats is amazing. Breakbeat is used here in the same way that it's used in dance music but to completely different effect-- it's a shortcut to strange little indie pop ditties, but made by one guy with a sampler instead of a group of people who purposely play their instruments poorly.
15) Real 2 Reel ft. Mad Stuntman - I Am The Mad Stuntman
There is so much amazing house and reggae that came out on Strictly Rhythm, Nervous Records, and their various sub-labels. Reel 2 Reel aka Eric Morillo is probably best known for "Move It" which is firmly engrained into everyone on the planet's brain. Highly recommend digging through these labels' back-catalogs for amazing break filled tracks outside of the house music they are best known for.
16) Future Sound of London - Papau New Guinea
Best to end it on a classic. Every time I listen to this track to this day I'm left speechless, so I'm not going to spill anymore ink on it.
+ 50 bonus breaks; everything collected here in a playlist as well as listed out below:
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