Borahm Lee and Adam Deitch are two of Brooklyn’s busiest producer/musicians. Just days before embarking on a western U.S. tour as drummer for funk band Lettuce, Deitch and his collaborator Lee, known collectively as Break Science, nailed a pair of back-to-back hometown gigs at Brooklyn Bowl. While night one featured a rare performance by “Manic Science,” a.k.a. Break Science joined by Chicago-based producer Manic Focus, the second night was all Break Science. The Break Science Live Band, to be precise, with members of Lettuce in tow.
The music of Break Science is a fusion of much of what you might see and hear over time if you frequent shows at Brooklyn Bowl. It’s the sonic vision of two producer-musicians whose passion is to mash up elements culled from the broad array of musical projects they have respectively participated in, deeply rooted in hip-hop and spanning the worlds of EDM to funk and dub. Different musical eras and styles are combined in such a way that the only possible reaction for a fan on the floor at a Break Science show is to dance and give up hope of trying to explain the experience. Words were not necessary as the crowd packing the Bowl buzzed and bounced on Friday night, awash in the vibrance of the rich colors and raging music emanating from the stage.
Hot on the heels of sizzling DJ sets from Marvel Years and Dreamer’s Delight, Break Science broke through the intervening chatter and hum appearing in classic fashion: Deitch on the kit and Lee at the keys, holding it down unaccompanied for the first few songs. While Lee and Deitch are more than capable of rocking crowds for a whole night as an electronica duo, the Live Band situates them in the center of a cross between an EDM performance and a futuristic funk-rock band.
After getting their set off to a smoking start, the duo introduced renowned beatboxer Rahzel, who gripped the audience’s attention with an impeccable exposé of technical precision and endurance, keeping the party rocking for a good 15 minutes using only his lungs, mouth and a microphone while Break Science took a short break. Deitch returned to back Rahzel on drums before welcoming back the full band and giving Rahzel a chance to rap.
From then on the crowd roiled ecstatically as samples and vocal tracks were interwoven seamlessly with analog instrumentation and live vocalists with a finesse indicative of years of experience both in front of and behind mixing boards on the part of the core duo. The brilliance of the live horns contributed greatly to the immediacy of the band’s vibe and the organic, human warmth that made fans feel immersed in the pulsating anthems rumbling the room. A big highlight came towards the end of the set with an intense unleashing of the spiritually uplifting “Force of Nature,” a single released back in October.
The Break Science Live Band demonstrated itself to be capable of birthing a vibe and morphing it through various forms. There is nothing like a good drummer laying down an arousing hip-hop beat, and it was Deitch’s role to do just that as the rhythmic center of the band, around which the other musical elements mixed and reacted in mystic alchemical fashion. His kinetically impactful drumming was instrumental in maintaining the sense of infectious excitement that lasted throughout the show. In the midst of the ever-shifting musical tapestry, guitarist Smirnoff would at times strum a groovy rhythm while Lee sent synth melodies snaking through the sonic ether. The Shady Horns would periodically punctuate instrumental passages with fiery harmonized jabs and contribute solos throughout the set. Other times the band would fall in behind Rahzel, CX or Bajah on the mic, or even back a vocal track with such delicacy that it would feel like the singer on the recording was present onstage. Coomes and Smirnoff of Lettuce brought their neo-funk musicality to the bass and guitar parts so that tunes envisioned and composed electronically became the living, breathing reality of the band killing it on the Brooklyn Bowl stage. Lee, the other half of the core duo, occupied center stage somewhat in the manner of an orchestra conductor, except that instead of waving a baton, he led the band by masterfully manipulating his rig of keyboards and electronics to dish out the hooks, harmonies and samples that are the heart and soul of Break Science’s music.
The cultural cornucopia that is Break Science should prompt a bit of reflection on what it is to be a part of or to bear witness to New York City’s musical traditions. It is truly awe-inspiring to see two guys who have been around the circuit so extensively bring together such a committed and well attuned cast of characters and utterly tear the roof off the sucker. But that’s just what Break Science does.