Breakbot not exactly groundbreaking
Thom Behrens | Tuesday, February 23, 2016
2013 was an amazing year for the disco-style revival in pop music. Highly influential French electronic duo Daft Punk boldly proclaimed their new sonic alliance with disco in their highly educated and homage-driven “Random Access Memories;” Justin Timberlake released the meticulously orchestrated two-part “20/20 Experience;” buoyant bassline-driven albums popped up from first-time artists Rhye and AlunaGeorge, sexualizing the beat with projects “Woman” and “Body Music,” respectively. Disclosure swept Grammy nominations (although the wins obligatorily went to Daft Punk) with their intrigue-ridden haunted house debut “Settle.” Producers Danger Mouse (as part of Broken Bells with lead vocalist James Mercer) and Pharrell followed up with the trend in early 2014 with their respective albums “After the Disco” (another orchestral-string driven project) and “GIRL.” This renaissance of disco attitude in electronic production has not left us alone — it is omnipresent in our bars, parties and running mixes. Dance hits “Uptown Funk” and Kanye West’s “Fade” off his newest release, “The Life of Pablo,” now replace spots on our playlists where Gotye or Maroon 5 would have been seen in 2012.
But even before its full realization in 2013, select artists had been pushing dance back onto the dance floor, which had previously been monopolized by over-sexed hip-hop and coy pop one-offs in the late 2000s. Artists like Flo Rida and LMFAO have been innovators of disco-pop since 2009, when the Black Eyed Peas and Lady Gaga still dominated charts with songs like “Boom Boom Pow” and “Poker Face,” respectively. If you’re glad we’re listening to absolute grooves like “Cake By The Ocean” now instead, thank LMFAO.
Another one of the artists who is also owed our thanks for this emerging trend of hedonistic, feel-good basslines is French producer Breakbot. A child of the early ’80s, Breakbot only slightly pre-dates the producers mentioned above and was one of the first to bring phrases like “nu-disco” and “electro-funk” into the vernacular of, at least, other Observer Scene staff writers. His breakout single, “Baby I’m Yours,” will have you finding ways to subtly move your body in public spaces, dreaming of dancing with people with whom you’ve shared clean but clandestine conversations and always wanted to get to know better. It features a groove so infectious and Seasonal Affective Disorder-dispelling that it was taken and smacked almost entirely in the middle of “Treasure” by Bruno Mars, which was released in, you guessed it, May 2013.
It is important to understand both Breakbot’s demonstrated ability to release phenomenal tracks as well as his genius and influence in nu-disco so that we can also understand how big of a letdown Breakbot’s sophomore attempt is. Released Feb. 5, “Still Waters” is a collection of 13 songs that is at times admittedly very danceable but never with the continuity or of the caliber we know Breakbot to be capable of. Instead of looking forward and trailblazing new sounds and attitudes, “Still Waters” instead looks around at its best moments and backpedals far too often. Borrowing the exact same synthesizers to motivate his tracks as Disclosure and AlunaGeorge, the biggest difference between their albums and “Still Waters” is that the latter makes me want to turn on the former, not get up and dance. He takes clichéd practices from Daft Punk: channel filters to make a track sound like it is being played underwater, soft and tinny auto-tunes to inspire both intimacy and isolation, songs started with warped and tunneled keyboard riffs until brought to life by a jogging bassline. In retrospect, the album appears to be about one-third an absolute duplicate of Daft Punk’s “Discover.”
Not only that, but Breakbot returns an aesthetic that is lyrically reminiscent of Akon: flirtatious yet lonely lines that abandon the confidence and sex appeal of all that disco stands for. There’s nothing new here — if you don’t give it a listen, you won’t miss anything that wasn’t said or done better in 2013.
If you like: Bruno Mars, Daft Punk, Robert DeLong
Best Tracks: Arrested, Get Lost, My Toy