Breakcore is a loosely defined electronic music style that brings together elements of industrial, jungle, hardcore techno and IDM into a breakbeat-oriented sound that encourages speed, complexity, impact and maximum sonic density. Similar to punk, breakcore adheres to a loose set of stylistic "rules" and is defined more by an attitude than by a musical formula.
Influences and Development
Breakcore began to evolve out of boredom with stagnant forms of more traditional techno and rave music, as well as an evolution within noise and sound art. A need for faster BPMs as well as a more anti-authoritarian sound also pushed the various sub-genres to greater extremes.
Proto-breakcore came from London, Berlin and Newcastle, Australia (home of Bloody Fist Records). Early influential artists include Alec Empire, DJ Scud, Panacea, Christoph Fringeli and Nasenbluten. Fringeli describes the sound then as "a hybrid strategy rather than a style or genre. It drew its influences and sources from industrial hardcore, jungle/drum'n'bass and everything in between and neighbouring it, engaging in an alchemy of sounds, pillaging the rave culture and sharpening, radicalizing and intensifying it."
In London, DJ Scud co-founded Ambush Records with fellow producer Aphasic to focus on more extreme noise-oriented hardcore drum and bass. Some artists released on Ambush are Christoph Fringeli, Slepcy, 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)."
Bloody Fist Records
At the same time, Bloody Fist Records based in Newcastle, Australia released many records of hardcore/gabber, industrial, and noise. 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." Artists signed to Bloody Fist in its lifetime include Syndicate, Xylocaine, Epsilon and Nasenbluten.
Digital Hardcore Recordings
Formed in 1994, Digital Hardcore Recordings released music by artists such as Alec Empire, Patric Catani, Shizuo, Atari Teenage Riot, EC8OR and Bomb 20, shaping the breakcore sound. The Alec Empire album the destroyer is often noted as the first breakcore album.
Breakcore becomes a genre
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, USA; Peace Off from Rennes, France; Sonic Belligeranza from Bologna, Italy; and Planet µ, from London, began to take a new shape, adding in more elements of mash-up 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.
One of the most controversial issues in breakcore is that of the mere existence of the genre. Because it pulls liberally from other musical genres, there is not a consensus on what is and what is not breakcore, or even over the usefulness of the term itself. 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.
According to Simon Reynolds, of The New York Times, breakcore is "purveyed by artists like DJ /Rupture and Team Shadetek, the 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."
In Europe, the breakcore genre was solidified by raves and club events such as Breakcore Gives Me Wood, in Belgium, and Breakcore A Go Go, in the Netherlands, which was run by FFF and Bong-Ra; as well as Anticartel, in Rennes, and later, Wasted, in Berlin.
While breakcore is definitely not only organized around the cutting and distortion of the amen break, it is a key to defining the genre. The amen break in breakcore is primarily used at high-speeds and edited to produce jarring effects when distorted and layered in combination with almost any sound. This particular drum-break sound characterizes many breakcore songs and is still used as a key factor to define the sound. This is in line with breakcore's tendency to create a post-modern parody of drum and bass clichés - many of the sounds heard in breakcore are very "classic" jungle samples.
Since the genre as a whole still is 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 (as already mentioned) by incorporating so many different forms of music all hacked together to form breakcore. It remains a relatively small genre, but compared to its size prior to the 1990s web boom, it continues to grow substantially.
Developments in the genre
Breakcore has forever been changing and branching. Many newer breakcore artists 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 prolific Venetian Snares has produced breakcore blended with elements of classical music. Other artists such as Shitmat, Toecutter, Sickboy and DJ Scotch Egg 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 Patric Catani, AA.Kurtz, Sabrepulse, Daylight Daterape, Tarmvred, and DJ Fhantom. Some musicians from the power noise scene have begun to take influence from breakcore. 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 Headfuk, Hecate, Bad Sekta, NoFixedAbode, Marionette records, Tinnitus, Ill Industries & Life4Land 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. .