It's odd that it's rainy here when I sit down to review this album; it was a rainy weeknight when I bought two important albums in my collection: Reprazent's New Forms (the US, 2xCD version) and V Classic, Vol. 1. I was already into DnB, but aside from Goldie's Timeless album, and a string of compilations from Liquid Sky Records (and tapes I made from the various Jungle shows on WPRB), I hadn't found something to truly latch onto. Roni Size and New Forms was it. The jazz, the lyrics - this opus was a very different approach to the Drum & Bass I was used to. We had real song structure, live instrumentation, and an aesthetic that screamed "we do what we feel works". It went on to be highly lauded, and is one of the greatest albums in DnB history. Now, 10 years later, Size has gone back in and re-edited the original 13 tracks, giving them a 2008 polish, but does it work?
"Railings (2008 re-edit)"
Not bad so far - you can hear the fatter break on this one, with a few synth notes being played under Dynamite's rhymes. The tempo feels a bit slower than I remember the original to be, but that doesn't deter from the cut at all.
"Brown Paper Bag (2008 re-edit)"
You remember this one, right? The video is epic. Again, this one has a crispier feel to it, with some harder drums added underneath. The subtle differences (the random bleeps thrown in, echoes thrown on Dynamite MC's rhymes, etc.) seem unnecessary, this track is vivid enough for those tweaks, but again, I'm with it so far.
"New Forms (2008 re-edit)"
This is where things get kind of confusing. I fucking KNOW this one is slower than the original, and it comes off feeling awkward. It's damn near Breaks-esque, with Bahamadia's rhymes coming across too slow over the track. Wrong move, this one worked so much more when her vocals attacked that faster beat. Side note: did you know that she didn't record her rhymes with Roni? She actually got the info from Size, did her vocals, but when the tape came to Roni, she mispronounced his name... Sykes instead of Size. I forget where I read that, always made me laugh though.
"Let's Get It On (2008 re-edit)"
And then what does Roni do? He takes my FAVORITE cut from the album, and turns it into an interlude. This whole thing about this track is the calm before that frantic storm when the beat drops. But we miss that. Guess he had to make room for something better?
"Trust Me (2008 re-edit)"
Anthem status. This one has been mashing down raves for a long-ass time. It was a staple in '97, and I remember like 4, 5 years ago, it re-emerged, for good reason. Simple melody that murks the crowd. This one is kept relatively unscathed, which is nice.
"Digital (2008 re-edit)"
I was never that big on this cut, but it actually works very well with the new coat of paint on it. Hasn't aged badly at all.
"Matter Of Fact (2008 re-edit)"
This is a classic, and I'm glad he hasn't toyed with this one either. When you want to talk about one of the things that drew me into DnB, it was the manipulation of the breakbeat. This one sounds like Max Roach or someone doing an extended solo, and those classic V/Full Cycle atmosphere sounds always got me. Special sleeper cut.
"Heroes (2008 re-edit)"
When I listen to this re-edit, I keep thinking about DJ Die's "Drop Bear". I really don't remember how the original one sounded, but this cut could get released today and still mash down the liquid crowd.
"Share The Fall (2008 re-edit)"
Another epic cut, "Share The Fall" is all about that big vocal. Roni really just threw a new sheen on a ton of these cuts, which definitely sounds better than what many fans thought this would sound like. I think people were expecting Roni to retwerk these in his newer style, but he definitely stayed true to the originals, for more or less.
"Heart To Heart"
The first of the new cuts is my favorite new cut. This is pure downtempo, jazzy mood music. That sample is pure genius. Loads of emotion gets built into this one, as well... once that sample hits, its orgasmic. Trust we.
"Less Is More"
Unfortunately, more is what this cut needs. Another trip in a Break-y territory, instrumental cut is funky, yes, but doesn't seem to fit into the vibe of what's been established so far. Too funk/electro for this set, in my opinion.
"Down (2008 re-edit)"
Back to the nasty, vocal-driven cuts. I love when this one gets funky. So raw, rugged and refreshing.
"Hi Potent (2008 re-edit)"
This is one I forgot about. I remember the double bass in this, harkening to "Brown Paper Bag" a bit, but that vintage V bassdrop in this was something I guess I forgot about. Big big tune.
"Don't Hold Back"
The new single. Roni trying to recreate today's Hip-Hop production, I guess? Dynamite does his thing on the mic, but this just doesn't even fit into the scope of what this album was about, at all. Disappointing choice.
"Beatbox (2008 re-edit)"
When I made my corny mixtapes, I used to use this as an interlude. I love how they totally re-created a DnB track vocally. So impressive.
This is cool, definitely sounds dope, although I think it would be cooler in concert than it is on CD.
"Destination (2008 re-edit)"
I love that sax sample. It's so simple, but so damn effective. True jazz right there. And he didn't muddy this one up that much. I always loved this being the final cut.
All in all, while I am not totally disappointed in how Roni handled this project, I think it wasn't necessary. For the most part, the re-edits aren't that diverse or special to truly necessitate a release. And I get it, this is a landmark album in Drum & Bass history, but why not do like true landmark albums do, especially in the Jazz world: why not release a deluxe edition, say a 3 disc thing. Make it where the full original release is spanned over the first two discs, and the third can be a mixture of remixes/B-sides/alternate takes - hell, even throw the newer tracks on there, if need be. Don't go in, throw some new clothes on these older tracks and expect the masses to gobble it up. In reality, what this disc does is make me want to listen to the original more (which I COULD if I hadn't loaned it to this chick I used to cop weed off of). Maybe I should buy that instead of this...
rock the dub gives New Forms² 3 out of 5 stars. While it is a treat to hear these classic cuts polished with a new shine, this should have been called New Forms Revisited. Note to Roni: those new tracks are NOT enough to make someone cop this.
Burn Deez: "Heart To Heart", "Destination (2008 re-edit)", "Trust Me (2008 re-edit)", "Hi Potent (2008 re-edit)"
New Forms² is available NOW via Play. For more info on Roni Size and Reprazent, check out the Full Cycle Records website.
Bonus Beats: "Don't Hold Back", LIVE in Milan (Feb. 2008)
Excerpts from their gig at The Scala (London):