Netherlands, Germany, UK
Breakcore is a style and microgenre of electronic dance music that emerged from jungle, hardcore, and drum and bass in the mid-to-late 1990s. It is characterized by very complex and intricate breakbeats and a wide palette of sampling sources played at high tempos.
As the early days of "hardcore techno" or just "hardcore" began to settle in Europe, breakcore as a genre began to take more concrete forms in other parts of the world. Inspired by new labels such as Addict, from Milwaukee, US; Peace Off from Rennes, France; Sonic Belligeranza from Bologna, Italy; and Planet Mu, from London, it began to take a new shape, adding in more elements of mashup and IDM to the hardcore sounds. Each of these labels began to draw in aspects of their own social and aesthetic scenes into their music, allowing for an even broader definition of what was possible in the music.
In Europe, the breakcore genre was solidified by raves and club events such as Belgium's Breakcore Gives Me Wood, featuring local acts such as UndaCova and Sickboy; Breakcore A Go Go, in the Netherlands, which was run by FFF and Bong-Ra; as well as Anticartel, in Rennes, the seat of PeaceOff, and later, Wasted, in Berlin and Bangface in London.
Breakcore has been subject to changing and branching. Many newer breakcore artists (such as Mochipet etc.) focus on melodic progressions and complex drum programming while other artists still focus on distorted hardcore breakbeats and dark-edged musical influences (such as heavy metal and industrial). The artist Venetian Snares has produced breakcore blended with elements of classical music. Other artists such as Shitmat, Sickboy, DJ Scotch Egg, and Drop the Lime take another direction towards mash-up, happy hardcore, and rave to make a lighter, more humorous sound. The rise of Chiptune music has also blended with breakcore with artists such as Tarmvred. The UK free party scene has also expressed a large interest in producing and distributing its own takes on breakcore, with crews and labels such as Life4land, Hekate, Headfuk, and Bad Sekta helping to push the scene and sound forward, as well as bringing over a number of international artists to play at their parties and club nights. Breakcore is steadily gaining in popularity, and aspiring artists are found scattered across the Internet.
In Breakcore: Identity and Interaction on Peer-to-Peer, sociologist Andrew Whelan notes that Venetian Snares has become "synonymous with breakcore such that alternative styles are being sidelined." He adds that breakcore is the best example of a music genre whose development is intrinsically linked to online and peer-to-peer distribution.
In the 2020s breakcore underwent a revival, bringing with it a noticeably different sound than the music produced in the 1990s and 2000s. According to Bandcamp Daily writer James Gui, 2020s breakcore is nostalgic, atmospheric, and sentimental, and grew out of the digital hardcore scene of the 2010s. It is accompanied by an aesthetic that draws from video games, anime, and internet culture with artists such as Machine Girl, Sewerslvt, and Goreshit being influential to the revival's aesthetic and sound. Many fans of earlier breakcore consider this revival to be a separate genre, closer in spirit to ambient music or drum and bass.
The most defining characteristic of breakcore is the drum work, which is often based on the manipulation of the Amen break and other classic jungle and hip-hop breaks at high BPM. The techniques applied to achieve this differs from musician to musician, some preferring to cut up and rearrange the breaks, while others merely distort and loop breaks or apply various effects such as delay and chorus to alter the break's timbre.
Melodically, there is nothing that defines breakcore. Classic rave sounds such as acid bass lines, Hoovers and Reese bass are common, but breakcore is mostly known for sampling sounds from all over the musical spectrum to accommodate the frantic and fast-paced nature of the rhythm section. Around the turn of the century, more and more breakcore musicians began employing traditional synthesis techniques to compose elaborate melodies and harmonies. There are a growing number of musicians who make use of recorded live instrumentation in their music, such as Istari Lasterfahrer, Hecate, Benn Jordan, Ruby My Dear, Qüatros, Venetian Snares, Drumcorps, and Igorrr.
According to Simon Reynolds of The New York Times, "purveyed by artists like DJ/Rupture and Teamshadetek, the [breakcore] music combines rumbling bass lines, fidgety beats and grainy ragga vocals to create a home-listening surrogate for the 'bashment' vibe of a Jamaican sound system party. Others within the breakcore genre, like Knifehandchop, Kid606 and Soundmurderer, hark back to rave's own early days, their music evoking the rowdy fervor of a time when huge crowds flailed their limbs to a barrage of abstract noise and convulsive rhythm. It's a poignant aural mirage of a time when techno music was made for the popular vanguard rather than a connoisseurial elite, as it is today."
Raggacore is a style of music derived from ragga jungle that somewhat predates breakcore, characterized by ragga and dancehall rhythms and vocals. Its roots can arguably be traced back to jungle producer Remarc, who was one of the first producers to mix ragga and dancehall vocals with chaotic and intricately rearranged break beats. While only a few producers primarily work in the style, it still has a sizable following among breakcore fans. Notable examples of this style include Aaron Spectre, Bong-Ra, Cardopusher, Enduser, FFF, LFO Demon, Lemon Drizlay Crew, Renard Queenston, Ruby my Dear, Istari Lasterfahrer, Shitmat, Venetian Snares, and Stivs from the Life4Land crew.
In London, DJ Scud co-founded Ambush Records in 1997 with fellow producer Aphasic to focus on more extreme noise-oriented hardcore drum and bass. Some artists released on Ambush are Christoph Fringeli, Slepcy, The Panacea, and Noize Creator. "Scud and Nomex tracks like 'Total Destruction' helped create the blueprint for much of breakcore's sound, a high-bpm mash-up of hyperkinetic, post-jungle breaks, feedback, noise, and Jamaican elements paired with a devil-may-care attitude towards sampling that pulls from the broadest musical spectrum of styles (hip-hop, rock, industrial, pop, and beyond)."
At the same time, Bloody Fist Records based in Newcastle, Australia, released many records of hardcore/gabber, industrial, and noise. Artists signed to Bloody Fist in its lifetime include Syndicate, Xylocaine, Epsilon and Nasenbluten. Label founder Mark Newlands said, in 1997, "I think that the uncomfortableness also comes from a reaction towards the mainstream and popular culture that's constantly shoved down our throats, that's forced on the people via television, radio, mass media, etc. I think that also fuels the fire and keeps the aggressiveness there and the uncomfortableness." Newlands described their music as products of "cut'n'paste mentality" and an industrial environment. In her Experimental Music, Gail Priest credits the label as recognized globally for its contributions to the breakcore genre, and for spurring its 1990s development. The Bloody Fist sound became breakcore from what was the noise genre, with added elements of high beats per minute and "extreme, thick, low-fi textures". By way of example, Nasenbluten's 1996 Fuck Anna Wood exemplified this style with controversial public affairs audio samples collaged into dialogue atop early hardcore beats.
Formed in 1994, Digital Hardcore Recordings released music by artists such as Alec Empire, Shizuo, Atari Teenage Riot, EC8OR, and Bomb20, shaping the breakcore sound. This label is also responsible for digital hardcore, a genre developed simultaneously to breakcore. The Alec Empire album The Destroyer is often noted as the first breakcore album.[by whom?]
Because of the fragmentation, the breakcore scene is not centered in any one geographical location, but is rather scattered into disparate groups. Perhaps the one place where breakcore's "voice" can be heard is virtually, through the internet and various online forums, such as those at C8 and Widerstand (Eiterherd's website, now defunct).
Since the genre as a whole is still developing and growing rapidly, the music itself is largely downloaded via peer-to-peer networks, and discussed on internet forums. Whereas the early days of breakcore were based in select urban cities, the genre now has no geographical center. The music itself tends to reflect this multiplicity of media diffusion itself by incorporating many different musical styles and influences hybridized together. It remains a relatively small genre, but compared to its size prior to the 1990s web boom, it continues to grow substantially.
- Ishkur (2005). "Ishkur's guide to Electronic Music". Archived from the original on 11 February 2012. Retrieved 4 May 2014.
- Whelan, Andrew (2008). Breakcore: Identity and Interaction on Peer-to-Peer. Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
- Reynolds, Simon (2013). Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture. Soft Skull Press. pp. The style is patched together from all the rude 'n' cheesy street sounds that never be part of the Kompakt universe: jungle, gabba, dancehall, Miami bass, gangsta rap, etc.
- "Breakcore". Vice. Archived from the original on 12 October 2013. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
- Reynolds, Simon (2013). Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture. Soft Skull Press.
Tigerbeat 6 were just one node in an international network of breakcore — labels like Broklyn Beats, Irritant, Mashit, Cock Rock Disco, producers like Spreedranch Janksy, Hrvatski, V/Vm, knife-hand-chop, Donna Summer.
- Reynolds, Simon (2013). Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture. Soft Skull Press.
Ironically, the scene started as an offshoot of IDM, a.k.a. 'Intelligent Dance Music'.
- Matt Earp, "Breakcore: Live Fast", XLR8R, 20 July 2006. Access date: 8 August 2008.
- "Rossz Csillag Alatt Szuletett" review, Tiny Mix Tapes
- Detrimentalist! review, "Soundcheck", The Wire 293, July 2008, p. 60.
- Vivian Host, "Night Music", XLR8R 123, December 2008, p. 40.
- Whelan, Andrew (2008). Breakcore: Identity and Interaction on Peer-to-Peer. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 264.
- Whelan, Andrew (2008). Breakcore: Identity and Interaction on Peer-to-Peer. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 308.
- Gui, James (20 April 2022). "Demystifying the Internet's Breakcore Revival". Bandcamp Daily. Retrieved 13 November 2022.
- Whelan, Andrew (2008). Breakcore: Identity and Interaction on Peer-to-Peer. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 12.
Whelan focuses on three practices that he describes as "shibboleths," or "terms indicative of social location or origin, the use of which therefore serves to distinguish between groups" (p.14). These are the use of 1) nigga/nigger (Chapter 5); 2) gay/ghey (Chapter 7), and 3) the "Amen break" (Chapter 8), a widely sampled drum break from The Winstons' 1969 hit, "Amen Brother".
- Reynolds, Simon (23 January 2005). "The Turn Away From the Turntable". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 6 October 2013. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
- "Ragga-jungle et raggacore : le reggae sous amphétamines" (in French). 7 May 2009. Retrieved 4 May 2014..
- Interview in Datacide Three, October 1997
- Priest 2009, p. 85.
- Priest 2009, p. 98.
- Priest 2009, p. 68.
- Kleinl, David; Könighofer, Bertram (Dirs.) (2006). Notes on Breakcore (Documentary motion picture). Austria: Erlacher, Daniel. Archived from the original on 12 October 2013.
- Priest, Gail (2009). Experimental Music: Audio Explorations in Australia. UNSW Press. ISBN 978-1-921410-07-9.
- Whelan, Andrew (January 2008). Breakcore: Identity and Interaction on Peer-to-Peer. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84718-657-7. Retrieved 5 October 2013.