Breakcore is one of those genres that you’re not really supposed to like. At its most extreme, a breakcore track is a parade of production pyrotechnics and hall-of-mirrors sound transmogrification: a playground for the ear. It’s main goal is one of spectacle, to the awe the listener with complexity. At the time of its development, many jungle-heads unfairly chastised breakcore for supposedly removing sounds (like the amen break) from their original context and placing them in a chin-strokey, undanceable performative extravaganza.
Breakcore has therefore been often dismissed as a joke. But it’s one of the few genres that includes humour as one of its central themes. Simon Reynolds once wrote that Drill & Bass (a genre often paired with breakcore) might be better named Droll & Bass. Aphex Twin, Squarepusher and µ-Ziq all seemed to carry their British wit with them into the music they made. Consequently, the music was whimsical and fun, from Aphex’s contorted face to Squarepusher’s easily misheard lyrics on ‘Red Hot Car’.
But it’s hard not to be impressed by breakcore’s originality and technical depth. For many, myself included, breakcore was a great entry-point into electronic music because it sounded like nothing else in the world. I almost couldn’t believe that it was possible to make music like this, and I spent hours on the Internet trying to figure out how a sound was achieved or what software to use. I was completely fascinated.
But listening back to a lot of those early releases, it’s clear that breakcore isn’t all technical trickery. A lot of the time, under a lattice of digitally manipulated breakbeats, producers enshroud a hidden sweetness: an Easter-egg for you to savour, guilt-free. Take Aphex’s ‘Cock/Ver10’, which opens with some lush synthesised flutes before giving way to the infamous, ‘come on you cunts let’s have some Aphex acid!’, like the musical equivalent of a clown squirting water out of a flower when you lean in to smell its fragrance.
This latest mix from Calum Gunn compiles some of his favourite breakcore releases. Few will know that Gunn has produced a wealth of breakcore under his Acrnym moniker, a project Gunn describes as his “shady past”. You can also catch Calum Gunn at this year’s Norbergfestival.
Ebola - Wet T-Shirt DSP
Rognvald - Dovedale XO.10
Gareth Clarke - Curtsy
Terminal11 - 44 Edit
Datach’i - Penvang
Xanopticon - Into The Dark
Dev/Null - Alien Washcloth Tumor
Stivs - Strangers
Vytear - Unicon Chemicals
Bogdan Raczynski - D&D Diabolical
Puzzelweasel - FODHØVL
Venetian Snares - Epidermis