Thursday, 8 March 2018

Roni Size / Reprazent - New Forms (1997)

Whilst I'm always happy to hear new music, I generally find that new music makes its way to me so it's just a case of keeping my ears open. I don't actively seek out new music for the sake of it, and I tend to regard those who do as trying too hard - for example, a certain facebook twat who recently opined:

I'm fifty-one. My favorite bands right now are Otherkin, Bad Sounds, Spring King, Sundara Karma, Inheaven, Kagoule, Vant, and Moaning. I can't see myself ever not listening to new music.

This came in response to some clickbait about a teenager observing that she had heard of the Pixies because her grandparents listened to them. Following Mike's the aforementioned facebook twat's recommendation, I sought out Moaning - which really is the name of a band - but they sound like the fucking Mission; and Otherkin sound like the Strokes or the Fratellis - both of whom were shit first time round - and doubtless have a bright future composing theme songs for edgy Channel 4 comedies about teenagers having abortions.

New Forms won the Mercury Music Prize back in 1997, most likely thanks to some tiresomely self-conscious upper management twat who, much like Mike
the aforementioned facebook twat, prefers his music to be new new new. The Mercury Music Prize has also been won by Primal Scream and something called Gomez so probably doesn't count for much in the great scheme of things. Anyway, possibly as a result of winning the Mercury Music Prize, Roni Size was on the telly singing a couple of his songs. They sounded decent so I made purchase of the album, but the thing jumped all over the fucking shop. It could have been big fat bass frequencies making for poor groove integrity, or it could have been a dud pressing on vinyl recycled from truck tires and the plastic bits of vehicular dashboards, what with it being the last days of the original wave of vinyl. I played it maybe twice, so it never had a chance to sink in, and I never got over my vague feeling of disappointment.

The thing is that I'd heard about drum and bass, and most of it didn't actually sound quite like I hoped it would - nosebleed breakbeat falling somewhere between Peshay's Piano Tune and I, Me, Mine by Godflesh, which probably doesn't even count. Drum and bass compilations seemed to feature a suspiciously heavy emphasis on all that deep forest shit, and some of it even sounded like - ugh - jazz. Then I discovered Panacea, so that was one itch well and truly scratched; and yet somehow I still picked this up on CD on the grounds that there wasn't much point trying to play the vinyl edition; and now, two decades later, I've finally managed to listen to it all the way though more than twice in the same year -
because it's one fuck of a long album - building up to three or four times just this week, and finally I have an opinion.

I'm still not sure why New Forms won the Mercury Music Prize other than new new new and you probably won't have heard of it, but we have, and I'm not convinced of it being a landmark album; but it has impressive peaks, and nothing which truly sucks or outstays a welcome. I think the thing which confused me relates, more than anything, to my own expectations and related quest for a truly brutal drum and bass record which kicks your head in like no other. New Forms is really just a bunch of people pissing about in a studio, trying things out, some of which just happens to involve accelerated breakbeats. It's as much soul, dub, rap, ambient, techno, and even jazz - but in a good way, I guess - as anything. It's an album which never should have been square-pegged into a round hole by industry wankers with some giant medal burning a hole in their collective pocket, although to be fair I probably shouldn't have been so stupid as to grant such categorisation any sort of credence.

New Forms takes a while to sink in, but somehow does so as a coherent, mildly hypnotic whole - all thirty fucking hours of it. Brown Paper Bag still sounds insane after all this time; Watching Windows is gorgeous; and Hot Stuff - which I'd somehow never even noticed before - is one of those rare pieces of music which seems to be the same size as the sky. So I'm finally glad I bothered, not least because I might never have come to such an appreciation were I engaged in an endless, ostentatious quest for new new new.

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