By the end of the 1990s, the Electronic music based EDM scene could no longer be simply referred to as Acid House, Rave music or Techno. That was too simplistic and generic a term for the wider movement of nightclub and similarly based venues that supported music that was beat and texture driven, but highly variable in many different ways. In the 21st century, EDM styled music has primarily phased out the wider Rock movement of the 20th century, for better or worse. To the point, this is a Breakbeat based album that was Freestylers first album, and their most successful. Let’s see if it is listenable and also a good piece of history (or not).
We kick off with Freestyle Noize which begins with ghostly reversed vocals and a weird vocal sample. It quickly launches into a very fresh, funky and unique sounding piece which is surprisingly good. A bunch of different beats and cut-up vocals enter, and one can sense the excitement on this record already. Some twangy guitar is in the background before some super trippy Acid sounds enter. A great vocal sample of someone talking to a crowd is here, and then the bass hits you like nothing else at this point in EDM history. A very worthwhile and cool sounding piece. “Bring the noise!” is repeated here as a vocal sample, in amongst some dramatic and unique sounds, such as saxophone. All in all, a strong start to this album, and thoroughly enjoyably listenable from start to finish. These guys knew their stuff, very catchy and one thinks that the character Neo from The Matrix (Keanu Reeves plays him) would have loved this. Very strong start, it ends with an odd vocal sample about alien signals and communication being unrecognised by humans. Excellent start to the album.
Following is Dancehall Vibes which is a longer piece at over six minutes in length. It begins with some cut up Amen Breaks, spacey sounds and a touch of Jazzy horns. Some random vocal samples follow on in, and this really excellent and fresh sounding quality record continues. It launches into a Roland 808 styled groove, with some Reggae sounding vocal parts over the top by Tenor Fly. This is exciting, fresh and fun listening and although it doesn’t sound like something that would be played in a nightclub, this is good music to hear during the day for EDM heads. It mixes in a broad and well-designed mixture of sounds. This sounds as though it has been a product of a combination of minds and eclectic influences.. Some cyber electronic sounds come on through, before the vocals go into a centrepiece section, with alarm sirens in the background. There is also a retro gun ricochet in the background too, just for a little bit of oddity to listen to. In any case, a varied and enjoyable mix of Reggae vocals and EDM Breakbeat that sounds as relevant as it did back in 1998. It ends with a further set of Reggae vocals, before segueing into the next track.
Drop The Boom begins with some excellent drum loops and a very late 1980s sounding Acid House/Breaks track. Retro doesn’t mean old or bad, it just harks back throughout musical history on this track. This is a much shorter track that has a funky Daft Punk styled robotic voice and this deserves a long and interesting remix, if possible. This is a really cool piece of well-crafted music that sounds super cool. 808 Bells are in here as well, making this even more of a reminder of the second Summer Of Love (Ravers know what it is) and the glories of that era. It ends with minimal beats and more Acid sounds, before launching directly into the next track.
Don’t Stop continues the flavour and sound of the previous track with the beats and structure, before launching into a somewhat different tune altogether. It has some up-pitched female vocals and it is a fine example of what a bunch of young men can do if they can program successfully a few EDM music machines. It launches into a very catchy and unique piece with a cheesy sounding vocal, reminiscent of The Prodigy’s early music. So far, this album is a very excellent listening and points to Breakbeat being a very underrated genre of music altogether. It has a breakdown, before launching into some really awesome funky sounds that should make you move your body, no matter where you are on listening to this piece of excellent music. It ends quickly, with a phone call recording which is pretty random. Nice all the same.
Up next is Here We Go which begins with a funky mix of sound, and features Definition Of Sound. It sounds like a piece that looks back through music history to Funk and has some good Rapping efforts here by the guest. This is a different tune that still sounds fresh and consistent to this day. A slower and more groove-based piece that is quite imaginative and different, it’s not bad at all. This is fairly Pop music-oriented, especially for the sounds of the time. Undeniably good, there is a DJ scratching over a vocal sample rather than an instrumental solo, before launching straight back into the music. A catchy and definitely decent piece, this sounds really cool. A good piece of music, and this isn’t even the best so far on this album. It shows the consistency and imagination of Freestylers. It ends with a strange vocal sample from a movie, stating that it’s a holdup. Different.
Following is The Darkside which begins with some random vocal samples and some excellent subsonic bass, before launching into a bongo Breakbeat piece. This is a bit of a letdown, it honestly doesn’t sound as good as what came before. Still, it has promise but not that much promise. It’s okay but could have been rethought or going as far as to be scrapped entirely. Anyway, there are plenty of interesting sounds throughout that keep it going throughout, particularly the vocal samples. There is a siren in the background and it should have more of a Star Wars feel than it is. The beats are well layered and interesting, however. A missed opportunity, but okay listening for EDM fans. It is quite lengthy too, nothing overly special here. It ends with sound effect-laden vocals.
B-Boy Stance begins with more cut-up vocals and launches into a much better piece for listening. Plenty of massive beats, basslines and random artistic samples. This seems far more upbeat and funk-based listening. The Reggae styled vocals are okay, but they don’t really seem to fit this piece all that well. Still, no denying this is a good effort to listen to. This is a fairly intelligently styled approach to a multitude of genres, even at times, it lacks substance. Good but the awkward fusion of genres here doesn’t flow that well. Good but this one does fall short of being great, but nonetheless, is a fairly good representation of the album. Towards the end are some DJ scratched vocals, before the track fades out. At the end is a rather nasty phone recording between two guys on a man-to-man basis, if that describes it. Totally unnecessary outro, and a fairly average track.
We Rock Hard features Sol Sonic Force and begins with a very retro feel, very late 1980s Hip Hop sort of sound here. It powers along with an Afrika Bambatta style feel and launches into another awkward fusion of sounds. This is a good tune, quite a lot better than the previous entry on this album, but still, it sounds a little awkward. Anyway nonetheless, it does sound fresh and thoughtful. Interesting listening, but way too retro and not entirely original apiece. In any case, this sounds danceable but honestly is not the best track on the album. Good if you like 1980s sounds, otherwise you will be quite disappointed by this track. It sounds like both main parties wanted to recreate the past directly, which is not a good idea. To be a musician, one has to be inspired and influenced to create something evolutionary, not directly copying a sound that has already been done in the past. This is the flaw of the track and should have been cut down in length. Seven minutes of fairly disappointing music is a bit much. The lyrics here are really wannabe as well.
Next is Breaker Beats Pt. 1 which has some awesome vocals at the start, before going straight into a banging set of beats and some retro vocal samples. This is definitely a more promising piece, even if it is a short instrumental. It’s pretty plain however that although this is good, it is beginning to run out of tunes as the album goes on. Sadly, one could enjoy this more if it wasn’t a dead musical horse being flogged. Another ordinary piece. Fortunately, it’s short.
The successor to the previous track, Breaker Beats Pt. 2 comes next. It has a circus sort of drumroll, before launching into a decent bongo sampled piece that sounds quite interesting. This leads to a much better track on the album, which is a surprise, given the direction the album was heading into. A really danceable feel is present on this track, and some great vocal samples are throughout. The bassline is heavy and funky and is just an energetic listen. It is quite short, under three minutes in length. Good use of samples and mixing here, finishing with a scratched Funk sample. Good stuff.
Scratch 22 (Jay-Rock’s Theme) is next. It launches into a lame set of samples and is very ordinary. It follows on into a load of DJ scratching, before going into a very minimal piece of music with a load of scratching and samples. This is fairly ordinary, and indeed even Kid Rock’s early records are better than this, no joke. It eventually launches into a weird piece of beats and scratching that sounds totally awkward. If this is the best the Freestylers can do, it’s not hugely impressive of a record and the poor attempt at humour and weird scratching does not make this a good tune. It’s really difficult to understand this piece at this point, these guys must have been smoking the wrong stuff whilst recording some of this album. Sadly disappointing, it is more like an example of what one can do on a basic level with technology rather than a decent piece of music. The outro is quite bizarre, ending with a load of scratching and another weird phone call that is really inappropriate.
Ruffneck features Navigator, and has some movie samples that sound apocalyptic, before going straight into a better piece of music that sounds quite good. A better mix of sounds and samples, sounding like something Ali G would love. The Reggae/Rap feel points to a historical recognition of music and mixing that is overlooked by many. Really different and cool, this is quite impressive to listen to. Interesting piece that sounds direct from Jamaica, complete with references to “getting mashed up” (weed smoking) that sounds really good. This is likely the most loved and best tune from this release, and to be fair, livens up an otherwise ordinary second half of the album. A good mixture and cross-cultural reference, it makes one think about musical legends of the past, such as DJ Kool Herc, who were absolutely essential to tracks such as these in terms of their influence. Really excellent effort here.
Next is Feel The Panic which has many looped alarms at the beginning and a vocal sample, before launching into a rather good piece of mixing and instrumentation. This isn’t too bad a listen, but all the same, it is disappointing the mixed quality of musicianship on this record. Some excellent wah-wah Funk guitars play before the main vocal sample enters and a deep, driving bassline kicks this piece along nicely. This is actually surprisingly good, it flows nicely and sounds excellent throughout. A better example of what Breakbeat can specialise in full effect, this is an exciting and fresh listening experience. Some nice cut-up vocals enter in the second half, sounding very amazing and awesome. It sounds very different and futuristic this piece, and just sounds top. Feel the panic indeed, this is an energetic and decent piece of music. Impressive, even though this is not an overly impressive album, but this song is.
Following is Hold Up Your Hands which begins with a vocal sample which is political preaching by the sounds of it, before launching into a good piece of music. The beats here are really good and precise, and this whole piece sounds amazing. It is very lively and charged up with energy, sounding like a vast improvement on many earlier tracks on this album. Fortunately, it is good and fairly short at just under four minutes in length. A repeated vocal sample here launches the bridge back into the main section, and this is likely an overlooked tune by the Freestylers. Very catchy and cool, it deserves credit to listen to. It ends with the bare instrumentation, with a vocal sample simply stating, “You’ve saved my life”. Nice.
Warning is the last track on this album, at over five minutes long. It features Navigator again and launches into a very quick, semi-Drum and Bass piece. Unfortunately, this is one of the more ordinary cuts here and just doesn’t sound very impressive. Some trippy guitar sounds in the background are here, before launching into a piece of music that sounds fairly dated. Still, this is actually listenable, but all the same sounds a little disappointing and repetitive. It seems Freestylers had a mixed bag of tracks on this record, which is not always easy to listen to. Anyway, a rather routine sounding piece by now that sounds like it doesn’t really impress, no matter how much you attempt to enjoy it. This could have been edited length-wise as well. The album ends with backwards scratching, which is odd.
This is a fairly mixed bag of an album. Some cuts here are really good, others like they have missed the point somehow. The worst thing about this album is that it didn’t change music for good, it is simply another album release that is ordinary. If you want Breakbeat music, Plump DJs are a better place to start. Otherwise, forget about this album. It is too patchy and lacking to be considered worthwhile.
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