Wednesday, August 11, 1999

Jagged little thrill

Posted By on Wed, Aug 11, 1999 at 12:00 AM

God bless Roni Size. Not because he cut off those damn dreads of his, but because the Reprazent producer finally got wise and found himself a frontwoman – not a featured vocalist, not some sampled diva, but a real live fire-breathing frontwoman, – around which to build his newest drum ’n’ bass project.

Vocalist Leonie Laws is one ass-whoopin’ momma, sounding more like a bar-band, in-your-face Patti Smith type than a chanteuse. No angelic moaner soaring half a beat behind the syncopated beats and booming bass drops, Laws is so in the goddamn pocket on the title track, she’s singing along to the bassline through every wiggily twist – while on "Anti-Everything," Size and co-producer DJ Die do such a good job of putting Laws’ vocals into an angry haze, the song sounds like Portishead with a hot poker up its ass, as frenzied and as cohesive.

To their credit, Die and Size don’t just let Laws do all the work, but instead seem that much more determined to prove they’re still capable of making records for the UK dubplate mafia, while pushing jungle out of its sample-dependent climes by using live sounds and real players. "Late Morning" has live drum sounds (not, as the band name might suggest, breakbeats) and an electric guitar so live you can hear it hum, while the track as a whole is so organic it sounds like a jazz band jamming on some sideways rock shit more than the sampled-together, dark-core corner jungle’s painted itself into lately. And Laws, well, she may not be jungle’s Marianne Faithfull, but she’s damn close – and for d ’n’ b heads, she’s more than enough, maybe better. On "Rancid" she gives a taste-of-tongue-to-a-9-volt tone: "The junk in your words don’t show in your face/I’ll wait for your face to break." Break the beat indeed.


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