Review: Reprazent featuring Roni Size Lakota, Bristol

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The Independent Online
There's a wonderfully daft publicity photo of Reprazent where the members of the drum'n'bass collective are shown linked together by wires that appear to plug directly into the gravity-defying dreadlocks of Roni Size, while Roni himself stands, palms outstretched, looking to the heavens as if receiving signals from a higher power. The image of an electronic Christ-figure might be pushing it a bit, but Size is the hippest jungle producer of the moment, with an underground reputation of Bakerloo-line proportions. A series of singles for the Bristol-based Full Cycle and Dope Dragon labels, appearances on compilation albums and sundry re-mixes for others have ensured that he has become the face of drum'n'bass. His debut album for a major label is out at last and a live show to promote this most machine-bound of musics has been sent out on the road to do or die.

The problems of making the music work live have been triumphantly overcome. On a dry-ice-shrouded stage a drummer and a double-bassist propel the jungle break-beat pulse, flanking the four DJs crouched over VDUs and keyboards, wreathed in the drifting smoke like Wagnerian slaves. Out front, MC Dynamite barks out the raps and Onalee screams out soul-diva vocals. The diminutive Roni is more or less invisible save for a flurry of locks as he moves from console to console among his fellow DJs, Krust, Suv and Die.

But the sound, oh, the sound. Dirty great slabs of bass make your heart leap in its cage like a stun-gunned canary; skittering snare rhythms drill deep into the central nervous system, causing a St Vitus' dance of the lower extremities. Weird sound-samples and deconstructed jazzy riffs come and go, and although the beat enforces response, after a while the body relaxes into the half-speed bass rhythm while the mind apprehends the considerable subtleties of the music. The remainder of the evening passed in a glorious blur. Truly, Roni Size's dreadlocks may well be in communication with a mysterious and powerful force.