Given that remixes are the most definitive part of Thibaut Berland’s discography as Breakbot, it’s no real surprise that there was a four year gap between his low-key debut album By Your Side and the follow-up Still Waters. Even less surprising is how little the Breakbot formula has changed; vocal duties have shifted around from multiple collaborators to a few standard vocalists across the entire album, most notably his frequent collaborator Irfane. Outside of this, Still Waters is essentially a similar album, but one that’s still highly enjoyable.
Irfane’s inclusion on the album comes as no surprise—he featured on five tracks out of the fourteen on By Your Side—and in turn acts as one of the defining factors of Still Waters. His voice is a perfect match for Breakbot’s mix of French house, disco and funk, and it contributes to the album’s similar nature. Get Lost in particular features the same retro beats and disco flair that defined that first album, almost to a negative degree. 2Good4Me acts as the most unexpected Irfane track, with a decidedly more modern beat that sets it apart from the rest of the album. In every other moment, his inclusion threatens to keep the album in a safe, almost too predictable place; enjoyable, surely, but without note.
The moments that truly shine on the album come in moments that suitably enough do not feature Irfane. My Toy is deceptively simple, similar in style but dominated by a subtle looping piano riff and bass line that catches your attention much faster than the preceding tracks, with its female vocalist doing a perfect job of acting as the track’s commanding feature, between the harmonies and her soulful voice. Turning Around stands out for similar reasons, featuring a less dominant piano riff but replacing them with hypnotic bass lines and a slinky, seductive atmosphere. Yet the strongest track, without question, is the closing track and album’s namesake, Still Waters. Despite again carrying that distinct retro Breakbot feel, it does away with vocals entirely, allowing the focus to remain on its bubbly melodies and layers of synths. Berland’s production skills are indeed a marvel, but they never get as much of a showing on the album as they do here.
By repeatedly using the same vocalists, Still Waters falls far too close to landing in a rut, a fate from which it is only saved thanks to My Toy and Turning Around. This isn’t to say that the album is unenjoyable; it merely lacks the diversity offered by multiple vocalists, or the flourishes featured on instrumental tracks that defined By Your Side and made it so great. It’s unfortunate that Still Waters fell victim to the sophomore slump syndrome, but signs of Breakbot’s skill surely do shine through enough to make it worthwhile.