Breakbeat Era, Ultra Obscene (xl/1500 records)
For those unfamiliar with drum n bass, Breakbeat Era’s full length, Ultra Obscene, could serve as the lexicon. Not only does Breakbeat Era team up two of the genre’s most exciting pioneers, DJ Die and Ronnie Size, but vocals are laid down by the soulful Leonie Laws and the whole record is incredibly tight. It fulfills all the promises drum n bass and its creators have made over the years.
For those who enjoyed Ronnie Size and Reprazent’s New Forms, Breakbeat Era combines all the great drum n bass elements of that record and leaves a lot of the sorry-ass wanking at home. Ultra Obscene keeps the tight beats and surging bass pulses. But gone are the slow jams and cheesy acoustic guitars. All the tracks zoom forward like a Tokyo subway train, the smooth beats executing quick turns.
The real star of the record is Leonie Laws whose old-school soul voice proves to be incredibly limber and futuristic. Like something of a Motown Bjork, her voice smoothly bends around the breaks. It’s a warm tone which adds a humanity to a record and draws the listener in.
If this record has a flaw, it might be that it’s too dense. There are fifteen tracks here and each is executed with incredible attention to detail. The beats will consistently blow you away but you might have to put the record down for a while and step outside to clear your head. Definitely don’t stop listening half-way through. “Sex Change” and “Life Is My Friend,” the last two tracks, are two of the strongest.