Size’s celebrated Mercury winner suits home listening as well as the dancefloor.
Mike Diver 2010
If New Forms sounds dated on a listen some 13 years after its release (and it does), it’s no comment on the quality of the original album, which carved a mainstream niche for drum and bass like no album before it. Rather, the feeling that this is the sound of a time and place somewhat detached from the here and now is a product of dance music’s forever-evolving, always mutating splendour – as soon as a new form establishes itself enough to become the norm, so it slips behind a fresher selection of beats. Dubstep, wonky, whatever – much that’s essential today in dance has a shelf life certain to see it dusty in a relatively short period of time.
The debut album from Bristol-born producer Roni Size and his band Reprazent, New Forms stretched itself over two discs upon its release in 1997 – a concise, single-disc version was available, and the album was given a reboot by Size in 2008 which not only trimmed some of its fat but added some brand-new cuts, but for the full experience the 22-track double-disc affair is the version one should turn to. Brown Paper Bag is something of a calling card for Size, amongst the most immediate efforts to charm newcomers following New Forms’ Mercury win in 97 (where it triumphed over the likes of The Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy and Radiohead’s OK Computer); but here, in its nine-minute guise, it’s less a foot in the door than a tumble down a seemingly endless rabbit hole. And it’s not alone in prolonging its company – the twitchy, buzzing Digital is another running to nearly 10 minutes, and the silken step of Heroes continues for over six.
All three of these tracks were shortened come 08’s revised version of New Forms, but there’s no doubt that they sit well in the original’s suite-style sequencing. Size might have been familiar with shaking bass bins and quaking dancefloors prior to this magnum opus-proportioned missive, and Reprazent were a mighty live force frequenting no few festivals home and abroad, but he understood the need for a long-play set to sit well in the home environment. So as each track bleeds into the next, New Forms becomes the soundtrack to one’s headspace every bit as effectively as it can trigger the tapping of more than just toes. With jazz undercurrents earning plaudits from outside of the dance sphere, it’s little wonder that this collection was so acclaimed upon its release – if it has gathered dust, brush it off and stick it on.