With technology such that basically anyone with a computer, tablet, or smart phone can make music, it's make it all the more astonishing the way that dance music trends have a way of persisting way past the point of ubiquity these days. In a similar way in which all 'dance music' cues made for the purposes of a midwestern commercial or media production sounds uncannily like Daft Punk, breakbeat have become so commonplace in dance music so as to feel downright parodic at first blush these days. Where some producers are clearly using breakbeats for the same reason that early hardcore producers did--cuz it's way easier to loop a sampled break than it is to program a new beat from scratch--I find myself largely welcoming this trend in the records I buy. Reviewing the latest album-length missive from Shed last year, an artist whose been seemingly waiting for breakbeats to come back for the past decade, I noted that part of what made it such a joy was hearing the care that went into his beats, which sound built from the ground up rather than mindlessly sampled (and if they were sampled, kudos to Palowitz for making them sound so fresh).
It's a thought that popped into my head when the wispy breakbeat that opens "Ursa Minor," the lead single off of Hugo Messien's Advanced Aerial Threat four-tracker for Tectonic, first came out of my speaker. With a snare tuned so high as to merit the popcorn qualifier, the dread-filled bassline that comes snaking into the mix works in tandem with the beat and what sounds like the sample of a camera shutter closing and opening to create a tensely wrought introduction. The tension isn't necessarily jettisoned the second the track's leard piano motif hits, a wistful and thoughtful blues poem, as much as it is elevated to another place. The record's center label image of a jet's weapon tracking system perfectly captures the well-calibrated nature of the four varied productions on display here while failing to communicate the tender soulfulness with which the track is pregnant. By the time the laser-fast synth arps hit to push the track up near the tip of the stratosphere, Massien wisely pilots his craft downward once more, creating a satisfying and heart-wrenching emotional arc of a track.