Physical Therapy – Hit the breaks

In much of the new music that’s been making its way to the Formant in recent weeks, there seems to have been a healthy focus on the break-beat, more so than we’ve witnessed before in 2015. Mr Fold’s latest EP, which sees the producer going back to the break-beat roots of the AUS label he represents on “Netflix and Chill”, is dotted with the device. Martyn, who’s no stranger to the break-beat, transports it to the most unexpected of places, Ostgut Ton, for his latest EP “Falling for You”. While we are not one for latching on to trends, or exasperating a new sound for the purpose of hype, we cannot help but draw a conclusion that the break-beat is making a formidable return to the club, and in good time too. Its absence has opened up the floor to be dominated by a functional four to the floor kick and it’s about time a bit of colour returns to rhythmical percussion. Its return is not however occurring in the hyper-velocity domain of Drum & Bass, Footwork, or Hardcore, but rather amongst the more reserved tempos of House and Techno. It’s something Martyn & Fold represent in their last release and something that immediately grabs your attention when Physical Therapy’s Hit the Breaks kicks into the first bar.

The energetic fluctuations of the percussive section on the opening title track are formidable in presence of sound without being exhausting the listener, and draws you into a track where long legato bass-lines and thinly veiled pads smooth over the jagged edges of the beats. As you can expect from any Liberation Technologies release, “Hit the breaks” does not try to latch on to some trend or trending device, but rather appropriates the break-beat for the purpose of experimentation, in the way Aphex Twin or Autechre might have done in the past. Physical Therapy (aka Danny Fischer) warps a hefty sound palette – possibly taken from the more industrial elements in Techno – in a namiable execution that is rather more palatable in the break beat. Like Fold’s Clamer Mood, or Martyn’s Ahmadiya, the tempos are far more reserved, hovering between 120-130bpm and as a result it hits a more favourable listening rhythm for the modern day dance enthusiast.

Fischer is not however exclusively using the device through the release and often reverts to a four-four kick as the lynchpin of the beat, clouding the mid range and upper frequencies with a break-beat snare and syncopated hats. These elements provide the melodic framework in tracks like Tell me with their echoes and resonances adding the harmonic density the tracks need to be more than just a DJ tool.

It is however when Fischer focuses it all into something with a clear progression that it works most effectively. Clean Slate give us the most successful result in this regard and stands out as one of the highlights of this release, a release that re-establishes the charm of the break-beat in a modern context. Alongside recent works by the other artists mentioned here it breathes new life into the device from the experimental point of perspective. Hit the Breaks is a rallying call to those innovators in electronic music stuck in the dimensions of the regular dance beat. It redefines the break-beat as an expressive device rather than a timekeeper, and in that, Physical Therapy has created something quite unique with Hit the Breaks.

*Stream a mix from Physical Therapy for Liberation Technologies