Roni Size

Return to V

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Return to V Review

by John Bush

Not only a seminal producer in drum'n'bass, Roni Size also led the mainstream assault with excellent vocal crossovers like Reprazent's New Forms and Breakbeat Era's Ultra-Obscene. The first earned him the Mercury prize and the second stands as the best blending of aggro drum'n'bass with dedicated vocals ever heard (apologies to Lamb). Two years after a tracks-only record (Touching Down) that easily satisfied his fan base, Size returned as a commercial force with the "100% Vocal" Return to V. V Recordings, the hardcore label run by Jumpin' Jack Frost and Bryan Gee, was the home of Size's early classics "Timestretch" and "It's a Jazz Thing," so jungle fans could be easily forgiven for salivating at the prospect of another jungle landmark. Unfortunately though, Return to V isn't a back-to-basics record, and there isn't a single landmark to pick out from its 18 tracks. Size invited at least one different guest for each track, and the roster provides a look at the many styles influencing British club culture at the dawn of the millennium: hip-hop, R&B, ragga, jungle, 2-step, and house. The rub is that Size forces each of his guests into his technoid drum'n'bass format, fails to provide most of them with a hook, and relies on his production smarts -- as well as a heavy coating of fuzz -- to carry these tracks. The distance between ragga chatter Sweetie Irie and Marvin Gaye disciple Joe Roberts is neatly erased, which certainly allows for a unified album, but also one in which zero tracks stand out. Size dips out of jungle only once, for a solid hip-hop production with rapper Darrison as the feature, and rolls right over two world-class British MCs, Rodney P and Fallacy. (Fallacy is cut to exactly six words: "break it down" and "take it down"; fortunately, both of them have solo records of their own.) House vocalist Jocelyn Brown, who's been a musician for as long as Roni Size has been alive, is the only feature who escapes from this record with personality intact.

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