Roni Size - Return To V
UK Release Date:

4 October 2004

Track Listing:

1. Bump ‘N’ Grind
2. Shoulder To Shoulder
3. Fassyhole
4. Pull Up
5. Groove On
6. Cheeky Monkey
7. Time
8. Problems
9. Rise Up
10. Want Your Body
11. No Trouble
12. No More
13. On And On
14. Sing
15. Thirsty
16. The Streets
17. Out Of Breath
18. Give Me A Reason

Roni Size - Return To V (V Recordings)
•• Published: SoundsXP, November 2004
Original article:

Drum 'n' bass is one of the few genres that is completely defined and described by its name. Having been going strong for about a decade now, that is still what it all boils down to, tough breakbeats and tooth-rattling basslines…and often very little else, meaning it can prove formulaic and samey. Drum 'n' bass can be like a musical version of fish 'n' chips - you know exactly what you are getting and what it is going to taste like.

Roni Size's Reprazent collective won the Mercury Music Prize in 1997 by injecting some much needed creativity into the usual mix, adding live instruments to the basic foundations and giving drum 'n' bass some jazz-influenced credibility in the process. Many heralded it as a coming of age for the genre but seven years on most D&B still follows the same simple blueprint, so does Roni Size attempt to give the scene another, much-needed creative kick in the bassbins? Well, initially it appears not, the Bristolian seemingly happy to fit in with his contemporaries rather than stick his neck on the line.

The first six tracks provide a faithful blast of the usual formula, playing like a D&B DJ set featuring trademark skittering drums and thundering basslines. 'Bump 'N' Grind' sounds the alarm call with its squelching bass, party starting lyrical bursts and rave style edge before flowing straight into the constantly evolving, Martin Luther King-sampling, 'Shoulder To Shoulder'. After the initial assault, however, the album does broaden its horizons with the straight hiphop of 'Time', the slick R&B of 'No More' (featuring Beverley Knight) and the soulful croon of 'Want Your Body'. But it is never too long before we are thrown back onto the dancefloor by tracks like 'No Trouble', with its rolling breakbeats and hardcore rave stylings, and 'Out Of Breath', which features some heavy breathing as a clever, paranoia-inducing percussive touch.

This is very much a collective effort with guest vocalists and MCs on every track and though the lyrics may often lack substance it is best remembered that this is good old-fashioned dance music, not a Leonard Cohen album. Jocelyn Brown stretches things to breaking point, however, with her typically diva-esque performance on 'Sing', which comes across like the Sesame Street Guide To Peace. Lyrics like, "We don't have to live with one another just share and be good to each other" may be well intentioned but their cheesily naïve optimism grates after a while.

Roni Size relies on the accepted drum 'n' bass design much of the time but avoids the moody aggression that it often indulges in and, as on 'New Forms', ably demonstrates he is not afraid to deviate from the norm. 'Return To V' may not receive the same critical acclaim as its predecessor, the jazz influences largely absent now, but all the same it proves to be a varied, accessible triumph within what is sometimes a narrow and limited genre.

- Ian Roullier

Copyright © Ian Roullier 2004-2014