As with any attempt to trace the origins of a particular genre in music, tracing the roots of breakcore is not an easy task. One could posit that it originates in Europe, with labels like Praxis and Ambush or the first Digital Hardcore Recordings releases, or in the US with some Midwest producers from the mid-to-late ’90s. One could even try to define it as any type of music that uses chopped-up and distorted break beats, or say it is just a hybrid mutant of jungle and industrial music, or that it is a form of irreverent mashed-up music typified by sampling and broken beats, etcetera, etcetera. The truth is, to this day, the tree of breakcore has sprouted too many branches and bears too wide a range of fruits to even try one single definition anymore.
Consider the Japanese breakcore scene. Here breakcore feeds on aspects of Nipponese culture and infiltrates the long tradition of noise and punk music of cities like Osaka and Tokyo. Artists like CDR (aka Hikaru Tsunematsu) infuse the punk attitude proper to breakcore with what one could describe as oriental sensibility and derangement, an amalgam of overexposure to anime violence, overpopulation distress, and peaceful, lovely, sublime episodes of quietness. Add some sense of humor to the equation and you got it quite figured out.
CDR’s first proper CD (despite the title it’s not a CD-R) works as a kaleidoscopic biopsy of the genre. In addition to the prerequisite amen artillery of tracks like “MIAMI (Mesopotamia mix),” “MW2,” and “From HAWAII,” this package comes with some enhanced familiar flavors: “Psychedelic Fairy” is playful and cartoonist, not dissimilar to Drop the Lime’s pastiches; “Debuota-c” mixes the mandatory breaks with surf rocky riffs, bringing to mind End’s The Sounds of Disaster; “ASMANE” goes back in time and diligently updates the Aphex sound (circa I Care Because You Do). “December22”, “OLDHOME,” and “AS Osaka” also dwell in that whimsical period.
The more aggressive cuts are interspersed with interlude pieces: a piano tune, an autumnal harmonica hymn, a field recording, some chiming bells. These short interludes work well, easing the way for the more abrasive material. Provided that you’re familiar with these sounds, you’ll be able to listen to this from start to finish and your ears won’t flinch a bit.
The main virtue of a genre like breakcore resides in its plasticity. A plethora of elements as diverse as B-movie snippets, Muslim ritual percussion, traditional Japanese instrumentation, contemporary pop hits, old clavichord compositions, and even breakcore sounds themselves, may nourish the genre at any time and from all imaginable perspectives. CDR offers here a good introduction to (some) of the sounds and manners of a genre in constant flux. Far from derivative, playing with and twisting the open source of the given code, this music comes out as mischievous and fun.