Eccentric Breaks and Beats
Numero Group

More than seven years and 70 releases ago, the Numero Group slid into the public view. The Chicago-based archival label has made its name by rigorously researching and releasing albums from artists and scenes that have fallen three steps below obscurity. The label’s first release, Eccentric Soul: The Capsoul Label, won the hearts of the Agit crew by shining a spotlight on Agit’s Midwest home base of Columbus, Ohio. And that turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg. The Numero Group has managed to sustain high levels of “How the hell did they find that?” by finding gems no one else would even think existed.

After so many years and so much success, it’s inevitable that the Numero Group would get bootlegged. In an age where an artist’s entire catalog is only a click away, it’s hardly surprising. Yet few could have predicted the events that led to Eccentric Breaks and Beats. At some point in the past couple of years production duo Shoes dug through the Numero archives and created a 40-minute mix. They then took it one step further by pressing up a limited run of white label vinyl credited to the “Numbero” label. The records made their way to various tastemaker DJs, and unfortunately for Shoes, also made their way back to Numero. But instead of dropping the legal hammer, the label pulled their own jack move. They seized the pressing plates from the record plant and informed the duo that they would be bootlegging the bootleg.

The result, Eccentric Breaks and Beats, is a winking tribute to not only the Eccentric Soul series but the Ultimate Breaks and Beats series as well. The latter’s more than 25 volumes dominated producers and DJs’ record crates in the mid-80s and early 90s by providing the loops and sample fodder that fueled hip-hop in its formative years. But beyond their usefulness as a tool, those releases also had a lo-fi charm. Between their barely legal status and the charmingly rough artwork of a skeleton doing something vaguely music related, there was something about the records that was more than just the music. Eccentric Breaks and Beats tips its cap with its cover art, which features a skeleton digging through a record store lined with Numero releases. Numero also decided to have a little fun by renaming the tracks with silly titles like “John Goodman Is Too Cool to Cry,” “Which Jesus Am I,” and “Peoplibrium.”

But as Numero realized from day one, a good story is nothing without having the music to back it up. Luckily for everyone involved Shoes brought the goods by taking an approach that was less Girl Talk style mash-up and more akin to the Avalanches’ Since I Met You, which used more than 500 sample to construct the songs. Shoes chose a much more manageable 50 samples, but they are so artfully reconstructed even the most hardcore Numero fan will have a hard time picking out every sample. While the Ultimate Breaks and Beats were largely purely functional loops, Eccentric’s cuts are more mini-songs a la J Dilla. While the sample material is great, these new compositions can stand on their own. If Shoes could pull this off with limited access to Numero releases, imagine what would happen if they got full reign. Eccentric Breaks and Beats may be a cheeky one-off, but it deserves to be a new offshoot of the Numero family.
Dorian S. Ham