"Hey, hey, this new girl, just breaking in"
This is the first and only offering from Breakbeat Era released in 1999 on XL recordings. However rather than a lonely piece of brilliance this is actually another chapter in Roni Size's innovative drum and bass career. Breatbeat Era is a collaboration between Size and fellow Reprazent member DJ Die with Leonie Laws, the "new girl", on vocals. BBE take drum and bass and combine it with more traditional rock vocal stylings with most of the tracks featuring a traditional verse and chorus approach rather than the looped vocals common among electronic music.
- Past life
- Ultra obscene
- Breakbeat era
- Time 4 breaks
- Late morning
- Anti everything
- Animal machine
- Our disease
- Control freak
- Terrible funk
- Sex change
- Life is my friend
So to begin with we have an instrumental in the form of Past Life. This is an excellent introduction to the style of music on the rest of the album and reminds you that Roni Size has still got it. However since the main feature of the record is Laws' vocals it's a shame we are not introduced to those straight away. From here we continue with similar beats but now with the addition of Laws' vocals.
The tracks jump and skip around in Size's traditional style but the real gem here is Laws' vocals. They combine perfectly with the beats. Many vocalists simply try to sing over the top of the beat without taking into account the its intricacies and variations involved with drum and bass. Laws makes full use of the skipping jumping beats of Size and DJ Die, particularly noticeably on Breakbeat Era.
The album has a dark feel to it, representative of the direction drum and bass was heading in. The song titles may remind you more of an angry punk album than drum and bass and the lyrics take a similar direction,
"Don't believe me when I say, don't be scared don't run away" - Animal Machine
"Now that you suffer from our disease will you understand me?" - Our Disease
The album is about tension and claustrophobic
fear. Roni Size knows all about jazzy hooks and light beats, he showed that he can whatever he wants on New Forms
and it will still sound good. This time though he has made an album for ill light back alleys
, for creatures creeping up on virgins in the night.
What the Critics Thought
Opinion seems to vary quite a bit between those who think it is a stunning and innovative direction for drum and bass,
"a punky android Liza Minnelli let loose in a virtual cabaret" - Rolling Stone
"This is more like having your ass kicked by Tank Girl to the tune of 180bpm breakbeats" - Muzik
and those who can't stand Leonie Laws' vocals.
"Laws caterwauls like a drunken housewife out on a karaoke-bar bender with her girlfriends" - Armchair DJ
The first group tend not to be particularly knowledgeable in relation to drum and bass as other acts, such as Lamb
, had got there first with the traditional vocal style and drum and bass crossover. However with Roni Size behind it BBE produce something darker than previously seen but more importantly it is a great deal more musically coherent. Also previous artists have taken a lighter view using the drum and bass elements to produce elegant beats but ignoring the stomach churning bass
that should make your eyes water. On Life is my Friend
Size makes you wait for a full 66 seconds before he slams the beat down with an ill bass sample. Personally I find it hard to identify with the haters, I think Laws' vocals are excellent, she may not have a stunning voice but more important than that is the way she handles the complex rhythms and breaks in the tracks.