Back in 1997, when he and his Reprazent collective won the Mercury prize for their debut album, New Forms, Bristol-based producer Roni Size could do no wrong. The press were in love with drum'n'bass, and Reprazent's mix of nagging, fragmentary melody and spartan minimalism pointed to endless vistas of music yet to be explored.WAIT... THERE'S MORE STUFF
By 2000, when Reprazent released their follow-up, In the Mode, this Frankenstein's monster of a band was no longer a studio experiment but a living, breathing entity exerting its own influence on the music. On record, freeform meanders gave way to conventional song structures. But on stage, with a bass player, a drummer, singer Onallee and MC Dynamite presenting a human face to the machine-bred sound, Reprazent were sensational. Appearing at summer festivals in 2001, they were probably the best live band going. Then they split up.
Newly reconstituted, Reprazent mark II are plugging next month's retooled version of the 11-year-old debut, but this is no nostalgic wallow. A dazzling set includes some new material, including Don't Hold Back, a brutal, hip-hop-fuelled bark that recalls Reprazent's nearest musical cousins, fellow rave-era genre-manglers the Prodigy. But the touchstone moments still come from those two blistering LPs - New Forms and In the Mode retain their neoteric swagger.
Size's genius for musical drama is still intact, and Brown Paper Bag is his masterpiece: an essay in hyperkinetic pace, it piles up teetering stacks of instrumental layers, their cumulative weight triggering each step in a constant cycle of demolition and reconstruction of its latticework of melody, rhythm and mood. Digital is as primal as the heaviest metal, Heroes as delicate as chamber music, while Dynamite's hybridisation of hip-hop flow and rave MC-ing turns Railing and Snapshot into instruction manuals for exploring this outwardly simple but intricate music. A decade on, it still sounds like the future.
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