Volume 93, Issue 78

Thursday, February 17, 2000


Weekend pass

Breakbeat resurrects d 'n' b

Aglukark sings the songs of her people

Kittie's Spit very hard to swallow

Driving Miss Daisy a smooth, theatricle ride


Breakbeat resurrects d 'n' b

Photo by Phil Knott
"THEY CALL ME MELLOW YELLOW, ETC." Founding members of Breakbeat Era make like an ad for people in black. They'll be playing at the Better Living Centre in Toronto on Feb. 19.

By Mark Pytlik
Gazette Staff

Anyone who has read the music press lately has probably been subjected to an article or two about the supposed death of drum 'n' bass. Although DJ Roni Size enjoyed slight mainstream success a couple of years ago with Lifeforms, no such act has since been able to capitalize on that success.

After last year's over-hyped albums by acts such as Goldie, Grooverider and LTJ Bukem failed to make much mainstream headway, a quick-to-judge media hopped up to the pulpit and smugly eulogized the much-maligned genre.

That was, of course, before Breakbeat Era came along. Now, by all accounts, there's a possibility that said big-mouthed media may have to put their foot back in it. Why? Because not only are Breakbeat Era good, but they're also (gasp) drum 'n' bass.

What started out as a side project for fellow brits Roni Size and DJ Die, expanded into a full time venture when the inclusion of Bristolian Leonie Laws sparked a curious musical chemistry. Laws, a rambunctious and honey-voiced amateur muso, was called into the studio when Size accidentally stumbled onto one of her demo tapes. On a whim, she put her rapturous trademark vocals over top of one of the duo's instrumentals and turned it into a landmark drum 'n' bass single. The rest, as they say, is her story...

"I had no solo career," she smiles. "I was making music for fun. I could always sing very well, but music was just sort of a hobby. I'd always written a lot down – prose, poetry and stuff like that."

Turns out that Laws' quirky and often left-field approach has injected some humanity into what has typically been viewed as a cold and lifeless genre. With Breakbeat Era, listeners get the best of both worlds – Size and Die's technical precision matched with Laws' engaging ramblings. "I find it all very inspiring," Laws enthuses. "I like the music, I like the beats. I'm good at living in Never Never Land I suppose, so while I was making the album I didn't think about anything, I just responded to the music in my own way."

Whatever she did, it worked, because Breakbeat Era's debut offering, Ultra Obscene, is now being hailed as drum 'n' bass' saving grace. Laws doesn't seem prepared to buy into this idea. "It's all such a load of hogwash," she sneers. "I feel really sorry for people [who got burned by that]. Sometimes words fail us – they are just categories of things. Breakbeat Era is so many different things that it could fit in any category you like."

Given Size's well-documented penchant for musical shapeshifting and the variance of Laws' personal tastes, it shouldn't surprise people to hear that Breakbeat Era's only future mandate is to stay fresh. "What we're talking about here is forward music," Laws agrees. "It's music that's like some crazy car that was never actually meant to be driven on the road, but really fucking impresses you when it comes out."

And when it comes to speculating on the future of the genre, Laws is dutifully silent, preferring instead to roll her eyes at the fickle nature of the press. "[Because of us] they're saying drum 'n' bass ain't dead," she guffaws. "It just smells funny."

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