"With a name like Planet of the Breaks...
"With a name like Planet of the Breaks and a funky retro blaxploitation cover, you get an immediate idea of what kind of drumming you might expect to find on this 61-track audio CD from sampling giants Zero-G. Shawn Lee appears to be a sort of high-octane bearded hippy for the '9Os, proclaiming in the sleeve notes that each of the break beats that appear on this CD have been 'individually created with mad love'. Mad love or otherwise, he does have an uncanny knack for giving us the kind of drumming that simply cries out to be sampled. Instead of a CD that bombards us with millions of mediocre one-bar loops, this release concentrates on 60 of his finest and presents them as fairly lengthy drum performances (some well over three minutes long) that evolve and develop without ever loosing sight of the original groove.
Unlike many other drummers Shawn is clearly not averse to using electronic sounds, weird microphone techniques and even sequencing and sampling to get his rhythmical point across and all credit to him for that. As you might imagine, there is a strong late '70s feel to many of the loops (helped greatly by the fact that the whole CD was originally mastered on to vinyl), but like all good retro releases instead of merely copying genres and styles wholesale, the beauty of these breakbeats is that they have more than enough '9Os spin to make them both historically authentic, and yet scorchingly brand new at the same time. You'll find almost every type of conceivable drum sound somewhere on this CD, but instead of trying to impress us with how much outboard gear he has to play with, the compression, distortion, reverb, flange and gate effects are all perfectly suited to the track they are used on.
Performance-wise he always seems to hit the mark, and this CD is as much about what can be achieved through classic musical understatement as it is about blindingly good dance floor material. All the loops are listed with bpms, and sampling various sections of a long performance is an absolute doddle. This straightforward and uncluttered approach is a real breath of fresh air after so many drumming CDs that waste our time with tons of individual single shot drum samples that you know you'll never get round to sampling and badly edited and performed tom fills.
It's good to see a release that doesn't take itself too seriously, yet never loses sight of the main reason people buy drumming CDs in the first place, namely to inspire great performances throughout the rest of the track. If it's inspiration you're looking for you'll find it in Planet of the Breaks. It sounds great, it samples like a dream and whatever the hell 'mad love' is, Shawn Lee obviously has it by the bucket load and I WANT SOME!"
Awarded 91% and a PLATINUM AWARD
Awarded 91% and a PLATINUM AWARD
"Planet Of The Breaks showcases the dexterity of exemplary sessioneer Shawn Lee in a remarkable collection of brand new loops featuring some of the most imaginative drumming and production you'll hear on a sample CD. The 60-track format, each featuring essentially just one break, might appear at first to be a stingy deal. My initial reaction was: "That's a quid a break!" But play the thing and your value-for-money alarm bells will quickly be silenced.
These are evolving loops (most running over 16 bars, but some as long as two minutes) with a variety of playing and production developments as well as overdubs, effects drops and edits over their duration. Through the course of any given break you can expect to find lo-fi, compressed big beatery, gating distortion, flanging ring modulation, added percussion, overdubbed hihats and cymbals, vocal and instrumental snippets and any number of cunning quirks. But; unlike some effected breaks, this collection never loses the groove - or the actual drums, come to that - through being overcooked.
The predominant style of POTB is circa-100bpm, hip hop grooves with a few forays into faster, funky flourishes, but the potential for these breaks when you start chopping 'em up goes way beyond. It's the nearest thing you'll get to booking in your own top drummer and producer. An absolute essential."
Awarded 9 out of 10 and KEY BUY AWARD...
Awarded 9 out of 10 and KEY BUY AWARD
"The liner notes that accompany Planet of the Breaks are lively enough to make a corpse sit up and take notice: " [This CD] introduces a new generation of rawfunkindirtyassboogiebeats to sample. Original loops that mix old-school style and sound with the sonic science of the new school. Drums recorded through vintage analog and tube gear, then digitized, sliced, diced, tweaked, and freaked. This ain't no ordinary sample set." And then the kicker, penned by drummer Shawn Lee: "I played practically every make of drum kit out there and recorded them at nearly 20 different studios in both London and Los Angeles." Holy breakbeats! I'm doing the math, and, well let's just say I have serious doubts that "practically every make of drum kit out there" would fit on a single audio CD.
Exaggeration aside, how do these loops sound, and are they worth the 99 bucks? Just prior to starting this review, I finished a remix using the Key Buy-winning Breakbeat CD from Big Fish (reviewed Nov. '98). With those funky grooves in mind, I shoved Planet of the Breaks into the tray and started sampling. Right off the bat I was smiling. "The Skip" is a lo-fi, ringy loop that's wicked funky, and with a hilarious voice in the background shouting "Damn!" And the "Purdie Shuffle" might be one of the deepest ghost-note grooves I've ever heard on a sampling CD. Awesome. I'm starting to agree with the liner notes. Ernie Rideout found the loops to be "downright greazy, with a uniformly great feel that tends to hang back. And the live sounds are nice and boomy."
Planet of the Breaks doesn't have individual ReCycled slices following each loop like Breakbeat does. In fact, there's nothing construction kit-like about this CD. It's loops, and only loops. But with so many sample and software maniacs using ReCycle and the like these days, having pre-sliced pieces on audio CDs is becoming less of an issue. The loops on Planet are long, ranging from 16 bars to two minutes (!) in duration. Even so, I wish there was a bit more variety. Many times, the same short phrase will repeat several times before a new element is introduced. And it would be great if every loop had at least one hat- and snare only breakdown section. Most of the loops start big and stay big.
"I wish the loops had all been played straight through," adds Ernie. "Many are 2-bar loops repeated." Not all of the loops are static, though. Check out the way "Tribe Vibe" changes flavors: First you get a raw breakbeat with some background noise, then it mutates into a cool, chopped filter section, transforms into a noisy electro loop, and then returns to the original breakbeat but with a synth bass added. While a majority of this material is based on live-played beats, not all of the loops are of flesh and blood. Drum machines and audio chopping/quantizing have been employed in some of the tracks, which I like.
This old-meets-new school approach helps distinguish this CD from the pack. That said, Planet of the Breaks isn't what I'd call revolutionary. There are other funky man/machine hybrids on the market, such as AMG's Gota Yashiki Groove Activator, to name one. But like Yashiki's, this CD is at the top of its class. No doubt about it, Planet of the Breaks is a Key Buy winner, and a disc that I'll be adding to my sample library."
Produced and drummed by Shaun Lee, this...
Produced and drummed by Shaun Lee, this is live drumming taken to new levels. Shaun has spent time in Post Production twisting and mutating these beats, and the results are startling - this is no ordinary breakbeat CD! There are 60 loops here - probably less than you'd expect - but it's quality not quantity that counts. The variety and strangenenss of some breaks creates quite a raw edge. The drums have been recorded through vintage analogue and valve gear and each break individually created using a wide variety of production, mic-ing, processing, recording and sampling techniques. The result truly is a unique set of loops and breaks which stand head and shoulders above the competition - believe.