Sunday, March 17, 2013

//MZK SPCL: Reprazent- New Forms (Old Zen) [Drumnbass]

A month or two ago I had to go to the Airport for some reason. I don't remember exactly what it was for but I do remember being inside the audio/video store. I was checking out the discount C.D. rack at about two seconds per row when I stopped. I thought I saw something strange that shouldn't have been there so I flipped a few C.D.'s back just to stop and immediately recognise the album art. The words 'Reprazent' flushed out of the art and through the dusty case. Reprazent, the trend-setting Drumnbass outfit that would push the genre into the mainstream with it's 1997 debut album was right in my hands. This C.D. must have been on discount for a while. I had just the exact amount of pocket change that would cost to buy this.

 The colors, the themes and the earthiness that stems from the mid-to-late '90s mushes my heart in ways I can't explain. The blunted edginess of that entire time rubbed against me during those years. I was more aware at that time than even now. Years later I would examine that time again and trace back many influences. Early action movies, switching from 16 bit Sega Genesis games to playstation, buttoning up all the way to the top in a shirt and Drumnbass/Break Music.

Now let me boast on about Drumnbass music for a bit- If you can't honestly admit to this genre of music setting something off deep within you I'd say you're full of shit. The use of sampled breaks, one specifically influencing the rest, helped me (and probably many others) develop a rhythmical abnormality that can only be so righteously a consequence of such badassery in the recording of music.

So yes, that's about how much I love Drumnbass music or even the unique availability of a modest and conscientious music crowd around that time. I.D.M, Hip Hop, Industrial, Ambient and 'Trip Hop' that all grew inside of each other as much as branched out on their own. Art had never been so daring and experimental in the electronic sense. It was the Mirror's Edge of Cyberpunk Eutopia. Or at least it was Music wise. Roni Size Reprazents (get it or did I not do it right?) a rather special place in that Eutopia.

Watching Windows by Roni Size & Reprazent on GroovesharkEven several songs into that album. The album that proved to be the apex of all that was edgy to me at that time feels still so sharp. 'Watching Windows', the lesser approved song of the album following 'Brown Paper Bag' indulges a satire on Hip Hop breaks and, in a way, boasts Drumnbass's percussional spotless complexity. The Bass-line surprisingly fitting as it moves from Hip Hop to what Reprazent's version of Hip Hop sounds like. The vocals though? Not really doing it.

Vocals were always Electronic Britain's Achilles's Heal. That is until UKLE came out from behind the shadows. Like many production acts around the same era- it was hard to come across good vocals and they had to make due with whatever singers were around at the time (or use stock sample vocals). It was generally safer to have female vocalists on Electronic music- that sentiment still withstanding to this day. The rule being so safe that Reprazent even structured a whole melody made out of the sounds of a woman moaning (implicitly sexual sounds). This repetitive sequence of (implicit) female pleasure gulps half of the seven-minute track that is 'Morse Code'.

Could it be that following half of the mind-trip that is this album, I could be asking why this music isn't considered edgy anymore? It's had a vastly more expansive basis than all of it's cousins. It had fast tempos and rhythms without losing structural integrity, It was dance-able in some contexts and it was open to other genres and influences. It's also really trippy.

Even with time, the drumnbass sound has seemed to come out from the shadows to bless internet listeners with its most divine liquidity only to be put away behind some recreated monstrosity (House Music). Even Dubstep, which had always been said to be pioneered by the young melancholic fans of Drumnbass nobility stands rather still in comparison to the franticness of sequenced amen-beats at speeds of 180 Beats Per Minute.

Have we moved away from the intense zen that is this album and into an era of constant explosive hits of temporal-hedonism? Is it the world that's so much more different than the indulgent time that was when I grew up? Or perhaps it's me that's hung on what was long ago? Maybe my nostalgia needs to be set loose and I need to come terms with what is.

This album isn't without faults  It was a softer incarnation of Jungle Music and borrowed heavily from the movement while toning its parts to blend in with the 'Trip Hop' vibe that was prevalent at the time thus making it not as dark or fierce. This slows down the development of each individual trance and sinking it down into an occasionally monotonous mind-frame that can be quite frustrating to those without the zen-like ability required to indulge such a put-together record. This album has to be split into at least two separate listening sessions or it could actually make you feel sick. The Borrowed singing influence from acts like Portishead and Massive Attack didn't help or add any good layers either. The original vocal line-up should've just been kept to Dynamite M.C. Drumnbass doesn't function so well as a throwback-style medium, it's made to be more forward thinking.

However, as I come off the essence of New Forms, I can still say the elemental influence handed to Liquid funk has been enormous. This album delivers on a zen scale I've never encountered before. This does what very little music nowadays tries to do- it moved between zones at its own pace, bracing for impact only to undress itself as something sultry. We're tricked time and time again over in this album. This is what relaxation is at heart- pain sliding into unadulterated bliss then back again- leaving behind an addiction to the form.

Change My Life by Roni Size & Reprazent on Grooveshark

I went back to that airport shop a week or two ago and found the C.D. still lying there. I still suspect it's there collecting dust but I never thought seriously about buying it.