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Friday, July 7, 2006
Drum 'n' bass in the place
Many cities have had their musical moments. Manchester became "Madchester" in the late 1980s on the back of the Happy Mondays and Stone Roses' baggy vibes; Seattle had its grunge explosion soon after that; and by the mid-1990s, Bristol was the place to be for urban music. Massive Attack and Portishead were already flying the flag for trip-hop as the city became the center of another style of music -- drum 'n' bass.
One of the household names of the genre -- Bristol's Roni Size -- will be in Japan for a three-date DJ tour this weekend. Size rose to fame after receiving the coveted Mercury Music Prize in 1997 for his debut album "New Forms" (on the label Talkin' Loud), which he wrote and performed with his band Reprazent. The album combined elements of jazz, hip-hop and hardcore rave with breakbeats and fast-tempo rhythms, with the emphasis very much on throbbing basslines, as heard in the hit singles "Watching Windows" and "Brown Paper Bag."
After receiving the prize, commentators began to speak of a "D 'n' B explosion," confidently predicting the genre would dominate the dance scene and eclipse house and techno.
It never happened.
The Chemical Brothers released "Dig Your Own Hole," Fatboy Slim went global with "You've Come A Long Way, Baby," big beat was born and drum 'n' bass headed back to the underground.
Now, a small but dedicated following can be found at D 'n' B events, forever insisting that the music is on its way back to the mainstream. While that's unlikely, anyone who was lucky enough to see some of the pioneers in 1997-98 -- Size, Goldie, Grooverider and Fabio -- will be able to tell you that the events were memorable in equal parts for their lack of pretentiousness and frenetic atmosphere (in part a result of cajoling from dynamic MCs).
A night out to see one of D 'n' B's biggest stars is worthwhile, even if only to see what the British were up to on Friday nights for a brief time in the mid-'90s.
Roni Size DJs at Triangle in Osaka on July 7 (4,000 yen in advance, 4,500 yen at the door); at Womb, Tokyo on July 8 as part of the O6S Records event with O6S resident DJs Aki and Keita (4,000 yen with flyer); and at Graf, Fukuoka City on July 9 (also with Aki and Keita, 3,000 yen in advance, 4,000 yen at the door).
For more information, visit dublab.jp (Richard Smart)