When drum and bass was making its first foray onto the shelves of Our Price and the like in 1997, Roni Size found himself at the forefront with the release of his New Forms debut. Above its innovative textures and rhythms, it captured the community spirit behind the scene, and was delivered with a refreshing lack of arrogance that could be found in other quarters of the genre.
Ten years on and things have changed for Size. New Forms is Universal’s latest target for a deluxe reissue, and on the back of this its author has decided to return to music for the first time in two years. Judging by the acclaim of the Scala crowd this gig, wrapping up a comeback tour, confirmed he’s been missed.
Size has always impressed with his no-frills approach and, joined by his sextet Reprazent, set about applying the fiercest of bass sounds to the Scala floor. Indeed towards the middle of a particularly entertaining and biting megamix of old jungle favourites, I could almost picture worried passengers on the Piccadilly line below.
Led by MC Dynamite, the vocals fizzed above the stunning musicianship of drummer Rob Merrill and bassist Si John, who were the driving force of the music. Vocalist Onallee demonstrated her versatility by alternating a floated, dreamy vocal with more primal sounds that punctuated a superb live version of Brown Paper Bag.
This track, Size’s defining sound, has been consigned to all manner of property documentaries and weightloss programmes over the years, so it was refreshing to hear it live and raw in the flesh again. That we heard it once more, albeit in a rather more aggressive encore version, was not over-helpful, though the crowd weren’t about to complain.
The megamix was immediately juxtaposed with Size’s comeback single Don’t Hold Back, built on a riff akin to Nirvana. This will slip into the revised New Forms and showed the band at their most syncopated if perhaps not their most effective. Better moments were to be found elsewhere in Heroes, Share The Fall, a biting Who Told You and a large-scale finale of Sound Advice.
It’s convenient that Size is returning at the same time as the New Forms reissue, but it would be out of character for him to cash in so he gets the benefit of the doubt. And in any case, the crowd reaction demanded he stay for longer than just this tour. As MC Dynamite put it in a particularly violent down beat, Reprazent are BACK!