Whatever Happened To Nu Skool Breaks: Ten Tracks to Hear Before You Die— Liam Maloney -
Whatever Happened To Nu Skool Breaks: Ten Tracks to Hear Before You Die
Between 1998 and 2003 there was nothing cooler than nu skool breaks. While The Prodigy were confirmed MIA apart from their generally scorned and maligned assault-metaphor-ridden ‘Baby’s Got A Temper’, and platinum blonde extensions were clogging up the motors of every 2-step garage DJ’s Technics, a new electronic genre was bubbling up from the underground. Nu Skool Breaks was the bastard child of techno and big-beat, using electronic textures, syncopated beats, squelchy synths, and classic vocal samples to create an entirely new sound. But it wasn’t to last. Whatever happened to Nu Skool Breaks?
1997, the third summer of love. All the coolest and most neon clubbers were migrating to Ibiza to have a summer off their tits on ecstasy (which it still was then) listening to the new sound of trance. In the background, DJ mag, Mixmag, Ministry mag, and even the NME were frotting themselves silly at this new melodic monster. The trance wave didn’t really last, trickling away over the course of 18 months. But in 1998, something was stirring in London. The nu skool breaks sound originated in Shaftesbury Avenue, at Bar Rumba, under the stewardship of two of the scene’s biggest proponents Adam Freeland and Rennie Pilgrim. The sound would quickly expand drawing in others like the Bassbin Twins, Kevin Beber, and whole host of yanks desperately searching for a form of electronic music that the USA’s hip hop-cursed audiences could connect with. Breaks was widely tipped to take over the world, providing at once a rhythm more easily palatable to rock enthusiasts with its massive snare drums, fragments of hip hop vocals suiting the aficionados of MTV Base (vom), and taking dance fans to a familiar, yet refreshingly different place sonically.
But just as breaks was poised to rule the globe; tragedy struck! Twice! The reinvigorated angular indie sound of Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand and the world’s dullest band ‘Arctic Monkeys’ grabbed the worlds attention, taking the part-timer musical omnivores with it into a world of drudgery and unfulfilled hopes. Concurrently, the drum & bass explosion happened. D&B, which realistically had been in the queue for 7 years and was about to ask to see the manager, promised everything breaks did, but with the immediacy of having a back catalogue of jungle to draw on, and the allure of more black clothing, sweatier venues, awful fashion, red stripe cans and the cigarette of choice ‘embassy’ (who knows why). It even pulled in the metal heads desperately wishing that Saint Anger hadn’t happened and found solace in the manic, frenetic energy of Full Cycle and RAM recordings. You could also punch people at D&B nights, which helped.
Breaks was left in the dust. It continues to limp onwards for a decade, with some great material still being released, albeit with a more grown-up, dare I say ‘boring’ edge to it. At the end of 2009, Mix Mag (or one of those glossy rags, can’t remember which one, and I can’t find the article), published a list of things they got wrong. Their prediction of breaks being the biggest thing in the world took the number 1 slot on their countdown. Not a surprising revelation given the dearth of breaks around these days. There are a few faithful devotees of breaks around these days (myself included). Breaks officially died on the 6th of September 2014, when the spiritual home of breaks ‘Tangled’ in Manchester finally shut up shop for the last time.
If nu skool breaks passed you by, or you just want to relive those heady days of Marine Parade, Botchit and Scarper, and Distinct’ve, here are DAAcast & Beat.Rehab’s 10 Nu Skool tracks to hear before you die.