Music Reviews

Roni Size

Touching Down

Full Cycle

Roni Size’s first album with his Reprazent crew, New Forms, is generally acknowledged as one of the greatest drum n’ bass albums of all time; it set the standard for intelligent d n’ b, and even won the Mercury Music Prize in 1997, although some people think OK Computer deserved the prize a little more. (Not me, baby.) The second Reprazent album, In The Mode, didn’t really do very well, even though it featured all kinds of “nuff respect” cameos. Fashionable reviewers told us all that that proved the death of the whole genre.

So it’s incredibly ballsy of Size to release a “solo” album at all. It’s doubly ballsy when he declares, in his thick Bristol accent, “You are all very welcome to join me for the next hour of killer drums and bass. It is official: we are now in the mix.” So he persists in thinking that we still remember a kind of music that’s been officially declared uncool by pundits and non-musicians everywhere? The unmitigated cheek!

But the triple-ballsiness is: This is the greatest drum and bass album ever made. Size really pulls out all the stops on this one: it’s basically a solid 62+ minutes of insanely fast tempos, amazingly hot beats, intriguing melodies that turn into other more intriguing melodies before you even know it, and nods to other forms of music and other d n’ b creators. If this doesn’t singlehandedly revive this style of music, it will be because Size has created such a daunting masterpiece that no one dares pick up the gauntlet he’s thrown down: create a whole d n’ b record without cheesy singers (or any singers at all), without guest raps (or any rapping at all), with nothing but you and your computer and the insistent sleeve-tug of creativity.

Touching Down is sequenced so smoothly that the whole thing is basically two movements, and the track listings are pretty much a joke: a song begins long before its “number” comes up, and ends way after in most cases. The funk-guitar riff that pops up during the frenetic “Scrambled Eggs” merely serves as a disguise to hide the onset of muscle-track “Uncensored,” during which it surfaces again to devastating effect. “Vocoda Funk,” which really could have been on New Forms, suddenly goes left and segues into the multi-part epic “Sorry For You,” which singlehandedly puts all of New Forms to shame with its Autechre-meets-Boards Of Canada noises that lead into a psychedelic-guitar loop…all of which is laid over a Speed Racer beat that just won’t quit.

And the album’s only halfway through. “Feel The Heat” is goth-techno with a flute sample tossed in from New Forms – you know the one. Indie Rock Pete himself would love the guitar lick that drives “Keep Strong” and “Find Myself,” but the mathematical equation dancebeat of “Reel Dark One” would just explode Pete’s little head. “Swings And Roundabouts” exploits its own name by stretching its repetitive five-note pattern over the 4/4 beat and then shoving the song around to fit it. And “Snapshots 3” is the strongest closer Size has ever come up with.

Plus, my man gets bonus points for calling a track “Zak Attak.” Wasn’t that the band that the Saved By the Bell gang were in? With Screech on keys and Kelly Kapowsky just looking hot? Ace, Roni, I’m serious.

No, there’s no way you can possibly dance to this without destroying your own sacroiliac, so don’t try. It’s headphone music, invite-the-friends-over music, art music in the best sense of the word. I’ve played this record ten times since I got it last week and I’ll play it a hundred times more. This is some classic d n’ b, and I’m happy to have it in my life.

Full Cycle Records:

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