-->
Music

Breakestra: Hit the Floor

Scott Hreha

Miles Tackett and his collaborators form an ambitious crew -- and are obviously talented enough to continue pushing the boundaries of the Breakestra's potential.


Breakestra

Hit the Floor

Label: Ubiquity
US Release Date: 2005-10-25
UK Release Date: 2005-10-24
iTunes affiliate
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

The Roots may be the best known proponents of hip-hop played by real live instruments, but that doesn't necessarily mean they've cornered the market. The Los Angeles-based Breakestra is a case in point; the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist hip-hop fan Miles Tackett -- incidentally, the son of Little Feat's Freddie Tackett -- the group personifies its name with a breakbeat-friendly large ensemble sound that blends the vintage soul grooves of the JB's and the Meters with an old-school hip-hop aesthetic born out of Tackett's admiration for trailblazing artists like De La Soul and Ultramagnetic MCs. Hit the Floor, the Breakestra's first new release since 2001's The Live Mix, Pt. 2, finds the band making great strides forward, especially in terms of setting itself apart from the growing pack of like-minded throwback ensembles.

Where The Live Mix, Pt. 2 had the band playing in a largely tributary mode, offering funked-up extensions of old-school hip-hop breaks, Hit the Floor consists of 100 percent original material. It's a move that suits the group well, allowing Tackett and Mixmaster Wolf's emotive vocals to guide the band into territories far beyond the sum of its collective influences. As a unit, the Breakestra functions refreshingly free of ego -- each member of the group receives ample opportunity to step forward throughout the course of the disc, but the obvious ease with which collective interplay occurs only makes the occasional solo spot that much more enjoyable. Even so, special mention must be made in the case of drummer Pete McNeil, whose seemingly effortless and inventive breakbeat variations stimulate even the few tracks that veer into cookie-cutter funk.

Although funk jams of both the vocal and instrumental varieties dominate the track list, a handful of stylistic departures add greater depth to the band's concept and ultimately ensure the disc's overall success. "Hiding" and "Recognize" hint that Tackett may very well be as gifted a pop songwriter as he is a funk revivalist, combining the best of both worlds in catchy, soulful tunes reminiscent of Sly & the Family Stone circa "Underdog" or "I Cannot Make It". Elsewhere, the disc maintains a firm grasp on the Breakestra's roots via guest vocals from members of Jurassic 5 and People Under the Stairs on the undeniably old-school first single "Family Rap".

Further extending the inspirational palette at its disposal, the group also exhibits a solid understanding of some jazzier directions in its all-encompassing definition of funk. "Burgundy Blues", for example, captures the early '70s California Blue Note vibe in a flute-driven piece that could easily be mistaken for the work of Jeremy Steig, but rather extends the talents of Breakestra reedman James "The Penguin" King. And in a completely different shade of jazz-funk, the disc's longest track "How Do You Really Feel?" sounds like the band's take on Bitches Brew-era Miles Davis, with spacious guitar chords stretching the ensemble sound to auspicious new heights.

To be fair, beyond the standout cuts, a few do tend toward the interchangeable; and at 65 minutes, the disc is a tad overlong, but these are minor points of contention. Miles Tackett and his collaborators form an ambitious crew -- and are obviously talented enough to continue pushing the boundaries of the Breakestra's potential. If they take full advantage, Hit the Floor will stand as just the first of many growth patterns in the band's career.

7
Music

The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less
Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less
7

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image