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Favorite ThisBreak Science electrifies Memphis with hybrid electronic-acoustic set

Published: April 5, 2010

By: Cole Epley

Minglewood Hall of Memphis, TN played gracious host to Brooklyn’s own Break Science last weekend. Who is Break Science, you may ask? For starters, it’s the concept-turned-reality of musicians/producers Adam Deitch (Lettuce, John Scofield Band) and Borahm Lee (Topaz, Actual Proof). These beatmeisters find themselves near the proverbial tip of the spear in the emerging livetronica-acoustic hybrid genre. Lee, the self-professed ‘key-j’ of the duo, lays down hip-hop and dub step-infused beats and sequences and combines them with smart, heady keyboard arrangements while Deitch takes it away on a drum kit that sometimes seems to defy all laws of acoustics. With Lee mixing things up and Deitch masterfully drumming out complexities, it’s a combination that can’t go wrong.

The Untz was able to catch up with Deitch briefly after the show and a subsequent phone interview shed a little more light on who and what Break Science stands for.  With their live show being an experience in and of itself, the man behind Break Science’s drums elaborated on ‘feeling’ the music as a fan and as an artist:

“You gotta see it. [There are] a lot of producers that are great, and when you see them live, it’s kind of a let down. It’s like they’re just playing their tracks and there’s nothing really live happening. I feel like with Break Science, we have the live element. It transcends music and becomes an experience, absolutely. I love playing. I’ve been playing a lot of live music my whole life without any sort of sequences or samples or anything, and now that I have those samples and electronic vibes in there, it’s opened up a new door for our playing-for our acoustic playing…There are slower nights, and there are big nights. Even with a slower night, I’ll play the same show like it’s Madison Square Garden, even for five people. Because I want those five people to tell 100 people. It doesn’t matter if it’s one person in the audience-I’m still going to play the same way and kick ass.”

Supporting Pnuma Trio for the last 10 of their 25 total spring shows, Break Science (whose other half consists of Borahm Lee on keys/mix) said ‘so long’ after the gig Saturday night to get back home to New York. During their week-long break from the tour circuit, BS is hitting it hard in the studio, working on polishing their forthcoming EP. Deitch had this to say about wrapping things up:

“Well, we are just finishing the EP right now. With the EP, we did something really creative in that, a lot of times when people record electronic music, they leave the live drums off until you see it live. Whereas we recorded all these amazing tracks, which takes a long time to record electronically. And it took us a long time. But then we added live drums on top of it all at the end to give it that human feel-so I think it’s going to set itself apart in that alone. It wouldn’t make sense if we put out an EP that didn’t have live drums. It just wouldn’t move and breathe like it does live. That was one of the challenges-that’s why the EP took so long because we had to make sure we had the proper drums, and make sure that they were bangin’ and that they felt real. That’s one thing that people can tell nowadays-if there’s some real live elements in there. So the EP is going to be out in probably a month and we’ll probably be releasing some tracks at the same time. So we just want to blow it up as big as possible.”

Creative is putting it nicely. Transforming hip-hop into something that feels as powerful as Break Science is something of its own creation, something only a few other acts are bringing to the forefront (See: Pretty Lights, Two Fresh). The music is something that embodies what Break Science stand for creatively:

“It’s a representation of now, where we’re at with technology. For me to do a straight-up funk record or a soul record, it would be more of a looking back into the past of what’s already been done. I’m a huge fan of funk. But as far as what people are dealing with technologically and the sounds we’re hearing coming out of cars passing by, I feel like Break Science is just more relevant than anything purely live or purely electronic. It’s a hybrid thing which keeps it ‘new.’

You may be asking yourself, is it music evolved, in a sense? Deitch responds with an emphatic ‘Yes’: “It’s totally evolved…it’s something the pop world has been doing for years; you know, if you were playing with Mariah Carey or Madonna over the past couple years, you would’ve had to have dealt with electronics and dealt with playing live and all that. But nobody has really done that just for purely creative reasons, until pretty recently. It’s the electronic, the electro-acoustic at the same time, the combination; for a while it was purely electronic, and as much as I respect the art form of that music, it’s the combination of the electronic with live instruments that has created this new genre: Pretty Lights has a drummer, Two Fresh has a drummer, Break Science has a keyboard player AND a drummer. It’s the hybrid music that’s brand new. We need people to know about this and what we’re doing.
Next weekend, the boys will take their jazz/hip-hop/dub step-infused act to Rock the Resort II (April 10) in Kerhonkson, NY, where they will perform alongside the likes of heavyweights like KRS-ONE and Roots of Creation. From there, it’s deep into the Mississippi Delta where BS is slated for three appearances during New Orleans' 41st Annual Jazz & Heritage Festival.

“We’ve been going to Jazz Fest for years now, as part of the whole Royal Family. It’s always good to play in front of a large crowd, even if it’s a live music crowd, a soul crowd-we’ll come out and do Break Science and try to shock them. They’re not used to that, and I love breaking people into that. Jazz Fest is always fun, it’s going to be a whole bunch of funk and we’re going to come on and just throw the dub step and the hip-hop stuff down, it’s going to be fun. Everyone down there, every local musician in New Orleans is who I am going to be checking out. I love the meters, I love dumpster funk, all the brass bands, the whole Neville family—everyone included. That’s who I hang out with, that’s who I’m going out to get oyster po’ boys with-that’s my family.”

Featuring heavy bass lines, tricky breaks and mesmerizing key & mixing work, those lucky enough to be at the Memphis show early heard (and felt) Break Science pay homage to the likes of Public Enemy and Jay-Z; they even got a taste of another Memphis product in a clever MGMT sample. Like peanut butter & jelly, the perfectly balanced Lee-Deitch combo pulled out all the stops through their hour-long foray into a hodgepodge of genres. Matching Deitch’s frenetic drumming with sequences and hypnotic keyboard (and even melodica) accompaniment, mixmaster Lee even added wah effects to his mind-numbing keys to further blow the minds of those in attendance. Again, stresses Deitch, it’s something that has to be experienced—each show reads something like a musical epic. What’s the next step for Break Science? Deitch elaborates:

“I mean, the number one step is for people to know that we’re coming for ‘em. Before Pnuma we were out with RJD2 for two weeks, we were opening for him, and our main thing is to let people know that, we’re a live act that you gotta come see… First, we’ve got to add people to the shows and then we’re going to add lights, an amazing light show; I’ve got people waiting to do stuff. We’re going to be bringing guest MCs like Redman and Talib Kwali once we get to the point where it’s like, okay, because these are all guys I’ve been working with for years. They’ll be the first to jump on, as soon as people know about it. So that’s where I’m at right now. I want to be playing Red Rocks by next year. I’m going heavy right now.

If you haven’t heard of them yet, don’t feel bad. Just get out to see them. Deitch said of the emerging scene, “It’s wide open-this whole scene right now. There are basically no rules, and it feels like the beginning of any other (new) music that’s happened over the history of it all. It’s like when jazz was a fresh art form, or when hip-hop first started. It’s the first time you have, say, two young twins like Two Fresh, two young black kids who are amazing producers, who are opening up for STS9, to a bunch of dancing hippy girls-there’s no rules and I love that. It’s the combination of a lot of computer stuff with live instruments and livetronica.”

Finding exposure, acceptance and an audience within a genre that’s not ‘radio-friendly’ can be a challenge. Finally, there has emerged a resource for fans and artists alike; with The Untz still taking baby steps to become the premiere resource for all things electronic, Adam Deitch spoke with a tone of relief and gave us his blessing: “All I can say is it’s about time! You know, I was talking with Two Fresh the other night, and those kids are like 21 but they’re so on it; they were like, ‘We’re doing some new stuff here and we were talking about bringing more of a multi-cultural vibe to the scene…’ For years the jam band scene was just white kids, whereas now, it’s incorporating a lot more of the beat, the urban sounds, with bass drums and that urban sound that we’ve been a part of for years doing hip-hop. Now we can bring that to a new audience. It’s going to encompass more people than just those who like Phish, or the Grateful Dead. It’s a whole new scene of kids who like hip-hop, or they may like dub step. It’s important that the urban side of music can be represented and not frowned upon, for example, a Grateful Dead fan could be like, ‘I don’t know about all this dub step,’ but it’s a new thing and it’s great to have a forum for it. And I wish you guys the best of luck blowing it up.”

Many huge thanks go out to Break Science, as well as the other pioneers of the emerging face of electronic-acoustic for giving us something worthwhile to write about. Even if you can’t find them headlining at a club near you, make an effort to find these guys live…at all costs—even as a supporting act, you’ll find them to be worth every penny of admission.


Tags: Drum and BassLivetronica