This Breakbot article was written by Stephen Butchard, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Samantha Melrose.
Breakbot’s music is the reason house party playlists were invented. They’re the cool disco remix that you’re bold enough to interrupt the Spotify queue for. They’re the song that receives equal booty shaking from your mate that likes Calvin Harris *and* the one that likes those obscure indie bands. Sure, it might not be as good as Daft Punk or Justice, but someone’s already played ‘Phantom Part 2’, and you wouldn’t dare repeat it.
In short, Breakbot’s music is a lot of fun. French producer Thibaut Berland has been crafting some of the most popular French house tracks of the past decade, with a focus on propulsive groovework and nostalgic sound design. His music is indebted to the pioneers of the genre, most notably the aforementioned Daft Punk, whose trademark mix of synthetic and organic disco textures colour the entirety of his latest album, ‘Still Waters.’ For many, this sense of déjà vu will be expected or perhaps even sought after – the French house style builds itself so heavily on pastiche that feelings of familiarity may just add to the enjoyment for hardcore fans.
This latest release does feel like an evolution of sorts, thanks to the appearance of collaborator and vocalist Irfane, who contributes to nearly every track. Musically, however, ‘Still Waters’ continues from the same point of reference as the debut album four years ago. Slinky basslines, danceable grooves and gooey sentimentality act as the formula for every track here. Opener ‘Back for More’ is a giddy, string-kissed cut that plays to Breakbot’s strengths, with a sticky bassline that contrasts well with the Galaga-esque synth arpeggios. It’s a sharp slice of revivalism that keeps up the momentum over its five minutes. Sadly, not many other songs fair as well.
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With its slew of vocal guests and bursts of live instrumentation, ‘Still Waters’ has a clear ambition and scope, but outside of a few interesting flourishes, it’s a largely stale affair. Upbeat cuts, such as ‘Get Lost’, become flat across their runtime thanks to bland textures and a lack of interesting progressions. The instrumentation is surprisingly dull in its representation of one of the glitteriest genres in existence.
Other songs aim instead for soppy balladry, but with a painfully stilted delivery. The vocals on the 90’s R&B slow jam ‘2good4me’ are anything but sensual, while its lyrics are drab at every corner. There’s a feeling that Breakbot is aiming for the tacky charm that Todd Terje mastered on his ‘It’s Album Time’, but without the same elegant production to match its silliness. ‘My Toy’ is another offender of drab lyricism, with a beat that would have lacked punch when Daft Punk were starting out in the nineties.
Overall, ‘Still Waters’ is a disappointing follow up, with many of its songs simply fading into the background over a full listen. Still, Breakbot’s keen ear for a good groove mean that he’ll remain a house party favourite when you’re struggling to win the crowd with shuffle alone.
‘Still Waters’ is out now via Ed Banger Records.