The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Low Culture

Organic Intelligence II: UK Breakcore
The Quietus , October 26th, 2021 07:33

Our second ever Organic Intelligence newsletter sees Noel Gardner rep for the short lived but much missed UK breakcore

DJ Scotch Egg

We’re not luddites, we just feel you deserve better than some unsatisfying algorithmical advice when it comes to music. This is the second edition of our new Low Culture subscriber’s newsletter, Organic Intelligence, which features tQ’s favourite people taking a deep dive into their record collections to offer you DJ bag gold, Discogs bargains and all-back-to-mine nuggets. This month Noel Gardner unearths five gems from the world of UK breakcore. You can listen to (an alternative mix of) this Organic Intelligence playlist on Spotify, Apple and Tidal (and remember that all your monthly playlists, as well as your exclusive essays, can be found on the Low Culture Quietus page). To get access to the Organic Intelligence newsletter, you need to sign up to our subscriber system via the Steady checkout below.

Listen to the modified UK Breakcore playlist on Spotify, Apple and Tidal (and remember that all your monthly playlists, as well as your exclusive essays, can be found on the Low Culture Quietus page here).

In hindsight, the lurid conglomerate of high-BPM fringe electronic music styles known as breakcore was probably not destined for a long and prosperous life of progression and reinvention, as genres go. Even so, it’s a pisser how sharply the bottom dropped out of the scene.

In the early to mid-2000s, it felt like it was everywhere, to me at any rate, thanks to nights like Bang Face in London and Toxic Dancehall in Bristol. Cribbing variously from London ragga jungle, Dutch gabber, German digital hardcore, American Midwest rave and NYC speedcore – often with elements of noise, metal and alternative cabaret appearing – the national origins of breakcore are up for debate; either way, the UK was fair riddled with it for a good while.

The style’s by no means completely vanished from the landscape – Bang Face’s weekender is returning for 2022 and will doubtless lace it into the lineup – but the days where a sallow-skinned youngling in a “BREAKCORE GIVES ME WOOD” shirt could lose their shit to a whole night of this obnoxious rig-testing racket every weekend are in the past. Nevertheless, here’s some choice cuts from the domestic contingent.

DJ Producer – 'Urban Decay'

Luke McMillan, better known as the finely named DJ Producer, was one of several UK bods who coined a highly identifiable thunderbastard style of hardcore techno in the 90s. This track dates from 1996, before breakcore was codified, but it’s been suggested that the name’s origin is in the title of the 12-inch it’s from, Nitemare On B-Kore Street. A volley of chopped-up junglist drums, eerie robotic bird calls and bass like a distant extreme weather event makes McMillan seem pretty legit in this respect. Could have alternatively picked something by sometime Producer co-producer, Hellfish; the pair were introduced to a new audience when Planet Mu, at the time an IDM-ish label, released the Constant Mutation compilation in 2000.

DJ Scud – '…In The Charts Again'

From a split 7" with Killout Trash

DJ Scud has been in the game for some 25 years – and still seems to be active to a degree – and has a better claim than most as the architect of breakcore. This track, from 1998, is on a split 7-inch with German band Killout Trash and in its two minutes mashes up acid basslines, turbofucked lo-fi breaks, a sampled-and-looped hardcore punk riff and what I believe is Wattie from The Exploited saying, many times over, “fuck off” and “fuck the cunts”. A peerless programmer of a certain type of mangled rhythm, Scud’s back catalogue perhaps contains a little more appropriative patois than is seemly for a white fella named Toby, but when he was on form it killed.

Shitmat – 'Ellesse Warrior'

From the Lesser Spotted Burberry EP

Henry ‘Shitmat’ Collins, too, is still around, albeit nowhere near as productive as in 2005, when this track came out, building itself around a sample of comedy web larrikin MC Devvo in case it wasn’t already dated to a very specific era. Shitmat productions like this were great because, contra to the clear water established by hardcore scenesters like Producer, they asserted that the more helium-y end of the form actually had musical merit and was ripe for plundering: his name’s a riff on Slipmatt, as you may have gathered yourself. Talking of riffs, there’s a fine, possibly Slayer-derived one towards the end of this, ditto burly gabber kicks and a “Welcome to the TERRORDOOOOME" vocal sample.

DJ Scotch Egg – 'Scotch Forest'

From the KFC Core LP

There was definitely a period in the second half of the 2000s where I saw DJ Scotch Egg more than some close friends or family members. And I’d do it again! Shige Ishihara’s 15-minute sets, performed on a modified first-gen Game Boy and typically played on the floor, were an essential component of any decent UK breakcore night. After a few years, he expanded his musical horizons a bit (although you can for sure tell that Scotch Rolex, his latest alias, is the same wild cat), but frothers like this from his 2005 album KFC Core, where chiptune, noiserock vocals and ripsnorter 4/4 beats unite, still sound as foully fried as the chicken which comprised his main diet.

Ladyscraper - 'Chunderchunk'

From the Thunderbox EP

Wayne Adams’ Ladyscraper alias debuted, like Scotch Egg, on the Shitmat-affiliated Wrong Music label. The track selected here, from a couple of years after, was released on Hellfish’s Deathchant Records, and even by their standards is remarkably obnoxious. Opening with a sample from Goonies, the bit about puking onto a crowd of people, it’s a suite of completely undanceable hyperspeed roaddrill breaks, the point where gabber starts more closely resembling digigrind or noisecore. Adams has worn various other musical hats since (though released a new album last year under the milder name Scraper), yet this formative spirit is generally audible: Petbrick, his metaltronica duo with Iggor Cavalera, takes its name from a Ladyscraper track.