This review was written by Crimson.
It has been roughly 4 years since I first fell in love with Breakbot’s (Thibault Berland) music. I was first introduced to his myspace page when it had a slightly different feel, full of pictures greeting visitors with quirky image variants of the short-shorted, long haired, synthesizer touting Frenchman in a variety of outfits. It was a time when Justice had me chasing down all things french electro, and Breakbot’s limited yet potent collection of remixes posted on his myspace playlist immediately caught my ear as something that added to the ongoing dialogue of the sound that had been evolving through Daft Punk, Justice, and many others on the Ed Banger roster. Breakbot’s eventual signing to the Ed Rec in 2009 marked a fitting partnership, and since then, we’ve all been waiting to hear how his sound would mature.
As an artist develops their craft and calibrates their marketing strategy in the face of present and pending success, it naturally leaves fans wondering what will be his/her next move. Some of Breakbot’s earliest work–the Happy Rabbit EP–featured a collection of catchy, crunchy, stand-alone instrumental tunes loaded with tons of funk bass and extremely clever design and composition. These songs were undoubtedly raw and experimental–as well as exciting and unique–and showed that he had really figured something new out. With the release of By Your Side, you can see the progression of his craft to a higher fidelity, more conventional form of producing, albeit at the loss of some of the rustic charm present in his earlier work. Ultimately, Breakbot has progressed in a sweeter, happier direction with his debut LP release. His album artwork–a piece of chocolate–adequately mirrors the refinement of his sound as straight-up ear candy.
Breakbot boldly wears his influences on his sleeve with By Your Side, and he does so in a way that holds a remarkable amount of authenticity. He takes feel-good disco in a direction that is always slightly cleaner and more intricate than other modern purveyors of the genre by seamlessly interlacing pop vocals, rhythm guitar, vintage synthesizers, funk bass, and a punchy kick-snare combination with a great sense for songwriting. By Your Side’s opening track, “Break of Dawn”, bridges the gap between Breakbot’s older, instrumental style with his newer, cleaner sound before transitioning into a set of vocal-centric songs featuring singers Ruckazoid, Irfane, and Pacific!. Singles “Fantasy” and “Baby I’m Yours” reappear amidst his new tracks, and the whole 14 song album is tied together with three more instrumentals; guitar heavy “Programme”, Dilla-esque “Easy Fraction”, and the infectious “Intersection”.
As a producer, Breakbot’s combined technical flair and ability to bring his influences into a contemporary metamorphosis has resulted in a unique sound that only he truly owns. As a DJ, there is perhaps no one who can better cram the gooiest, tastiest pieces of a eclectic back catalogue of disco, funk, pop, and boogie into a cohesive set on a consistent basis than he can (see: Dance On Glass Mix, Valentines Mix, Lazy Sunday Selecta, Heroes Mix, or any youtube live set). As a musician, he merges both art forms with intelligence and poise.
The over-saturation of the airwaves with nu-disco and french house look-alikes can make it easy for an artist’s sound to fall into obscurity under the cursed hand of loose association. Fortunately, Breakbot speaks loudly and pointedly as a champion and standout pioneer of electronic music. Of all the current synth-pop out there, his is the most infectious; of all the nu-disco, his is the oldest, and of all the modern electro-funk reinventions, his is the funkiest. It will be interesting to see if any big-wig pop singers turn to him as a producer in 2013.