Reprazent / Roni Size

New Forms

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From the final drum'n'bass pioneer to release a full-length, Roni Size's New Forms could well be the best. Though it's slightly bloated at two full discs, and slightly overhyped due to its winning Britain's Mercury Prize, New Forms was the major statement on drum'n'bass, barring only Goldie's Timeless. Size's prime asset is his unique style -- tough, careening breakbeats and metallic time-stretched effects over the organic, elastic sounds of upright bass and other jazzy add-ons. He also has a knack for deft pacing; though many of his productions test the seven-minute mark, he plays around with the beats so much that no track ever grows boring. On the title track, he weaves two sets of female vocals -- American rapper Bahamadia and resident Reprazent diva Onallee -- into the mix, digitally syncopating Bahamadia's rap into the production with complete precision. The constantly retriggering breakbeat on "Matter of Fact" makes it another highlight, and Size's transition from the atmospheric "Heroes" to a raging breakbeat storm like "Share the Fall" (both are Onallee features) is astonishing. Yes, Size's production clout is much more apparent on the first disc than the second, but New Forms is laced with so much genius it's worth the price of two discs to own all the excellent productions inside.

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