Break, aka Charlie Bierman, released his first drum and bass track in 2003. 20 years on, he is back to deliver Digital World on his very own Symmetry Records.
With his fifth studio album Break continues to craft a distinctive and recognisable sound fans of the genre can pick up almost immediately. It’s been eight years since his last album. So the question is, how did he know that he was ready for another album? And how did the album concept evolve?
The second year of lockdown I had done a pack of tunes and that went well. Then there were a few leftover and I kind of thought, these are bit too good. I might hang on to them for something special. Then I was just collecting this big folder of tunes and I wrote ‘Break Album’ and that was kind of just what it was for then. Then last year, I started getting a plan together, a few more vocalists came on board and it all started to take shape.
Digital World mirrors Break’s musical journey. His career started as a teenager releasing music on A-Side’s Eastcolours Recordings in the early 2000s. Since then, his influences expanded to include the groove of neo-soul and the power and grit of vintage soul. He has cherry picked the best parts of music being released on the biggest labels in the genre to create a sound and style of his own.
Digital World is one of the purest expressions of drum and bass you will hear this year. It combines the groove and funk of soul, the precise percussion from artists on Metalheadz, the grit and power from artists on Quarantine and the wonky, distorted baselines made famous by artists finding a home on Virus Recordings.
The album works through a variety of sub-genres with polish and purpose. The opening track Gunshot Love has been doing damage on the club circuit since being released as a single before the album launch. Punchy, percussive and powerful. Liam Bailey’s vocal performance brings a raw and energetic counterpoint to Break’s production. His vocals unexpectedly pair beautifully with the offbeat rhythms and reggae-influence sounds. Break speaks warmly of taking on the challenge of capturing the vocalists spontaneity during recording sessions.
He’s (Bailey) a very kind of freestyling, sort of singer. He'll write stuff and he'll kind of work out what he wants to do, but he'll he'll just suddenly jump off and do some other things. When that happened you would be thinking, wow, that's wicked, too. So you've kind of got vocals kind of flying at you from all sides and he's quite spontaneous, you know, so catching the idea became the challenge.
Some of Break’s tracks aren’t always appreciated or given ‘hit’ status when first released. A few tracks from the album will find appreciation and praise a while from now. One track from the album, certain to find support for the years to come is Natural Way. The track enshrines the unmistakable talent of MC Fats, who passed away a few months before the release of Digital World. Break speaks fondly of the track connecting him to the late vocalist and is grateful MC Fats was able to see the track’s impact in person.
It's a kind of bittersweet result. I'm very pleased that he heard the tune (Natural Way) and he saw the wake the tune left. So I'm really pleased he just got to experience that release. That's the last time I actually saw him in person was at Sun and Bass. Natural Way got hammered throughout Sun and Bass so he was really pleased with the reaction to the track while he was there.
The question is, will this album garner attention from outside the niche of drum and bass? There is enough musicality and ingenuity to interest fans of dance music generally. Not to mention the production quality. The audio engineering and sound design of the synths and basses in Digital World will have colleagues and contemporaries scratching their heads a little while asking, ‘how does he make that sound so big? But so refined?’
Break’s back catalogue continues to expand and explore more than drum and bass. Digital World is the most recent addition and it won’t be long before fans hear more from the prolific producer. All this, even though he did not spend much time in the studio.
So far this year I’ve hardly been in the studio. I’ve got tunes I didn’t have space for on the album I’ve got a couple of remixes that need to be finished so they’re just kind of in the background There has been a bit of a wait while we get my album out of the way and other people’s releases are due to come out. So we are going to focus a bit more on that and I might release a single or two from some of these unreleased bits.
So what are you waiting for? Find out if you have got soul in a Digital World.
Available now on Symmetry Recordings.