Music

Breakestra: Dusk Till Dawn

David Amidon

Some of Los Angeles' funkiest reunite for another strong set of sample-inspired music from the belly of the Root Down.


Breakestra

Dusk Till Dawn

Label: Strut
US Release Date: 2009-09-29
UK Release Date: 2009-09-28
Label Website
Artist Website
Amazon
iTunes

Among the many kinds of entertainment for which Los Angeles is well known are the various forms of clubs throughout the city. When it comes to the hip-hop and dance clubs in particular, the city is notable for the many celebrity DJs that occupy the city, from Madlib to the late DJ AM, and show up to play sets throughout the year. One of Los Angeles' favorite local talents, DJ Dusk, had made quite a name for himself with a unique brand of funk-inflected toasting and boasting throughout his DJ sets, which made him a standard attraction at the Root Down. In the late 1990s this club was also home to a large collection of alternative hip-hop groups such as Jurassic 5 and Dilated Peoples, as well as bands like Crown City Rockers and Breakestra.

Breakestra, releasing Dusk Till Dawn after a four-year hiatus from recording, have dedicated this record to the memory of DJ Dusk, who recently passed away as the victim of a drunk driving accident after playing a set in Los Angeles. Along with Jurassic 5's Cut Chemist, his style of sampling and performance was a major influence on the direction Miles "Music Man" Tackett wanted to take Breakestra, considered by many the city's finest funk band.

What makes Breakestra unique is that they don't play entirely original tunes, or entirely covers. Instead, as the hip-hop influence implies, they essentially weave classic breaks in and out of their sound, in effect "sampling" records with their instruments, rather than a turntable and sampler. I can't do a great job pointing out exactly where those breaks are. But I can tell you that the sound of this band brings to mind at various times the Blackbyrds, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Meters, perhaps Earth, Wind & Fire. And the influence of sampling is evident on tracks like "No Matter Where You Go", which features stabbing horns in the background that immediately recall some more uptempo West Coast hip-hop. But the best track is certainly "Posed to Be", featuring DJ Dusk and Jurassic 5's Chali 2na going back and forth on the microphone in a very traditional, early-'80s block party fashion. It is a consistently funky, good-times vibe, which translates to an album that would have to struggle very hard to frustrate or annoy listeners. The band plays very tightly, and also features members of DJ Z-Trip and Macy Gray's touring bands.

If one were going to find problems in Dusk Till Dawn, most likely they would probably owe themselves in some way to the length of the record. The CD-stuffing 74 minutes offer more than enough funk here for the funky souls among us, but casual explorers may be thrown off by the length and walk away from the last third of the album less interested than they were during the first third. Overstuffed albums have long been a trait of the compact disc era, however, so it's more par for the course than anything.

The one other problem with the group is that they rarely inject any variety into their set. While some songs start with unique sounds, like "Show You the Way" with its wall of noise, they eventually fall back into the same groovy funk. It's never disappointing, but it's going to be tough for some people to sit through the whole album if funk isn't in their lifeblood. I really like this album, and I'm sure seeing this set performed live would be an awesome experience -- judging by the infrequency of the band's releases, they are probably more accurately described as advertisements for their jams at Root Down than a truly definitive experience -- but on record they could use an editor and/or a bit more experimentation. The guest vocalists and cello (used excellently on "Me & Michelle") are a good start, and again I'm sure the live show expands on these sorts of dangling treats.

This release is a must-hear for funk diehards, a should-listen for hip-hop heads trying to develop their ear for breaks, and a could-try for everyone else. While it sounds like many of the other cuts, "No Matter Where You Go" gives the listener a highly enjoyable, educational tour through the sound of one of the United States' best current funk bands. Many people might have forgotten this breed of musician existed in any useful capacity, but groups like Breakestra and the many offshoots of the Dap-Kings -- not to mention hip-hoppers like Dudley Perkins and Georgia Anne Muldrow -- continue to remind us that funk is just as relevant as ever.

7

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

Music

The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.