2017 has been a different year for Symmetry bossman Break. Retreating from his famously prolific release rate, he’s been deep in studio hibernation on both his drum & bass material and his Degrees Of Freedom project with Kyo which we’ll begin to enjoy as the new year rolls out.
That’s not to say he hasn’t given us some stone cold gold this year. Midnight Classic and We Are The People with Fats and Cleveland Watkiss soundtracked our summer with pure soul while his remix of Technimatic’s Bristol has been unavoidable. More recently he’s also been teasing us with forthcoming wounders: Creeper and a very special remix of Dillinja’s seminal Hard Noize.
“That was a mad vibe,” the Londoner-in-Bristol explains. “Having Dillinja get in touch and ask me to remix it and send me the parts from the original DAT was a real honour. I won’t lie; it took me a while to finish because it’s something I had to get right. Going against one of the best producer’s best tunes was quite a challenge. How do you improve on something that’s close to perfect?”
You can hear both his Hard Noize remix and Creeper from around 19 minutes in on this recent mix at SpectraSoul’s album launch party. Both primed for release early(ish) next year, they’ll be joined by a brand new E.P. from Kyo featuring Break, Total Science, One Mind and Mikal. Also lined up is a Symmetry V.A. album featuring cuts from next-generation talents whose demos have been impressing Break this year.
But it’s not just demos that have impressed Break this year. The whole scene has been a source of inspiration for him. Now, in his own words, he’ll tell you why 2017 has been a vintage for drum & bass….
“I didn’t release as many tunes this year as I have done in previous years. Instead I’ve been making time to make music and doing other stuff for mine and Kyo’s Degrees Of Freedom project, which has been mostly house tunes. Drum & bass always takes priority but I had to be a bit brutal and focus on some other music this year.
You can’t do drum & bass day-in / day-out for 20 years and I’ve got lots of musical tastes which feed into drum & bass. Likewise my love for drum & bass feeds into making other genres. It keeps you on your toes and inspired in general. That’s what the original jungle melting pot was all about and I’m a big advocate for different vibes coming together. And I can tell you it’s been a really strong year for drum & bass musically because of this.
I’ve not had so many of my own dubs to play so it’s been nice to have lots of choice of wicked tunes from other producers. There’s a few particular producers who’ve had a great year and had the opportunity to release what they want to release. Right across the board, too, and real top quality stuff. Guys like Spectrasoul, Total Science, Serum, Bladerunner, DLR, Ulterior Motive, Sketpical, Alix Perez and many others have all given me some amazing tracks this year. Some of their best work ever.
And I think that’s down to a lot of them setting up their own labels and making the music they want to make. That’s what keeps things healthy. People are making what they like but also have the freedom to experiment too. The quality goes up; the vibes go up and the great melting pot keeps bubbling.
With this new wave of activity we’ve also seen a lot more dubs being shared further in advance. The problem was that many labels have a radio embargo on promos and you’re not able to send the music to anyone until two weeks before the release date. Luckily that culture is dying down and that’s very important. People are sharing tunes with friends a lot earlier, they’re happy to have their tunes up in mixes and get their music repped and create a bit of a buzz rather than keep them locked. People are being less precious and that’s such a good thing; it helps to get feedback from DJs. I often send tracks to a few DJs to play out and ask them how things sound. Is the bass too loud? Does it need more vocal? It’s good to have outside opinion and feedback.
Another exciting thing about this new wave of labels and activity is that these guys aren’t having their music A&R’d now. Heavy A&Ring seriously impacts the music, the creativity and how the artists make it and approaches their own music. It’s why I’ve never signed to any label that does that. So the fact that people aren’t feeling any type of influence and can do what they like has such a positive vibe which leads to better music.
I think production-wise we’re seeing some interesting changes, too. The loudness war has definitely calmed down a bit. I don’t know how much of that is down to Spotify and iTunes where they essentially turn down tracks to be the same level but that’s a big thing in general in the industry. But any retreat from extreme smash-it-out loudness levels is a good thing in general. Obviously we all want to sound fat and loud in the dance but once a few people start easing the levels back a bit and it actually sounds better, that effect is noticed and spreads around the scene.
That’s been another inspiring thing about drum & bass this year and it’s down to what I’ve been saying really… There’s a really mixed vibe right now, more people are playing across the board and more promoters are booking across the board. I always went to raves where there was a real cross section of DJs and you’d hear a mixture of styles. That’s always why I’ve made lots of different sounds as an artist. I grew up on Calibre and Konflict. They’re the polar opposites in sound, but both amazing. And I really do feel like we’re getting back into that. Let’s see more of the same in 2018…