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Time to break down the breakbeats genre

Can’t Stop the Beat: A Breakbeats Playlist Just for You!

Bring the club home and turn it up with these beat-heavy tracks!

hxly xo, aka Alex Bowman, is an Austin-based electronic music artist whose music has been played at festivals around the world.

April 11, 2024 3:32 pm

Alex Bowman, aka hxly xo, is here to school us on the beat-heavy genre that is breakbeats. You can go to the club…or bring it home with this playlist he’s especially curated for Wondercade that highlights just how awesome this genre is.

Breakbeat is a genre of electronic music characterized by its distinctive rhythmic pattern. It emerged in the 1970s, particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom, and has since evolved into various subgenres and styles.

At its core, breakbeat music features broken, syncopated drum patterns with prominent use of drum breaks. These drum breaks are typically sampled from funk, soul, jazz and other genres, and are often looped or manipulated to create complex rhythms. Breakbeats typically emphasize the “off-beat” or syncopated rhythms — giving the music its distinctive groove and energy.

1. “Breathe” by The Prodigy

“Breathe” was a song that took the late ‘90s and early 2000s by storm. It features a drum break from the song “Johnny the Fox Meets Jimmy the Weed” by Thin Lizzy, and it’s one of the first breakbeat tracks that I recall hearing frequently growing up.

2. “Backshifting” by Ivy Lab

This tune is a departure from Ivy Lab’s primary sound, and it’s an absolute unit. The primary focus of the track that carries the groove is a chopped “Think” break, and it comes from the 1972 song “Think (About It)” by the American soul singer Lyn Collins, written and produced by James Brown. The drum break was performed by John “Jabo” Starks.

3. “Yu” by Player Dave

With brooding, lush and melancholic synth work accenting the chopped drum grooves and percussion, this tune is elegant. It also retains such a solid head nod, and big time “crying in the club” energy.

4. “So U Kno” by Overmono

Pure gold, and a timeless song. The drum work in this track is very forward and the cadence of the vocal chop keeps things pushing throughout. This is a prime example of how early breakbeat went on to influence U.K. garage sounds.

5. “Hold Me Down” by hxly xo and Aukina

Aukina and I came together to write this tune with a focus toward atmosphere with tonal “foley” sounding elements and drums. Inspiration was large from breakbeat artists new and old.

6. “Es Tu Réel?” by Imanu and LaMeduza

A hypnotic swing accented by forlorn synth work, beautifully contrasted by LaMeduza’s charming vocal work, makes this an all-time classic. It is so easy to get lost in all of the layers and float away to this one.

7. “Blush Cut” by Yunè Pinku

This is a wonderful blend of breakbeat, garage and pop. Yunè’s main vocals and chops introduce an immaculate call and response with the drums throughout.

8. “The Circle” by Eprom

Left-field energy to the maximum. Untouchable sound design, with intricate breakbeat chops. The Think break, as well as many others, are featured throughout. An ode to the roots of the genre while pushing the envelope toward the future.

9. “For Your Eyes” by Posij

Top-tier jungle with a focus toward the intricate drum chops and patterns. The stabbing bassline introduces so much energy and the noise on the top end is the bow that ties everything together so well.

10. “BTHE1” by Machinedrum and LIZ

Undulating, modulating, pure evolution. The technical ability and finesse is through the roof on this one. Machinedrum’s discography is full of other examples of such, and there’s a good reason that they’ve become a staple within the modern breakbeat scene.

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