November 2, 2000

Technologically Inclined

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Within the past decade, artists have become increasingly experimental in the blending of different musical genres. Unexpected partnerships between artists such as Santana and Dave Matthews have culminated in some phenomenally successful singles.

Sampling has become common practice, enabling artists such as Moby and Bjork to create veritable musical collages that are increasingly blurring the lines between different types of music. Roni Size/ Reprazent’s latest release, In the Mode, follows this trend; it’s a bold practice in overstepping standard musical borderlines. Though predominantly a techno album, In the Mode incorporates a slew of different musical styles, focusing on hip-hop, with obvious allusions to R&B, rock, reggae, and jazz.

In the Mode (whose title appropriately invokes reference to jazz master Glenn Miller), is the work of Reprazent, a group of six English techno enthusiasts lead by Roni Size. The group has collaborated with Soul Coughing, and here lends the mike to Method Man, Rahzel, and Zack de la Rocha.

The highlight of In The Mode is unquestionably “Ghetto Celebrity,” featuring Method Man. Both Roni Size and Method Man deserve credit for its success. While some of the album’s songs seem unbalanced, this track finds a perfect harmony between hip-hop and techno. Method Man’s long-established prowess as a rapper is even more apparent as he manages to adapt to this different type of musical medium.

The remainder of the album is by no means substandard: Roni Size offers praise-worthy tracks throughout. His success largely stems from his diverse creation. One of techno’s biggest problems, and one of the reasons it’s had trouble establishing a large fan base, is that it tends to get repetitive at times. Size prohibits any droning by injecting each track with a unique flair, whether it’s a fresh voice, or an unanticipated sample. This not only makes tracks individually noteworthy, but it also makes the album as a whole more listenable.

In the Mode does, however, succumb to some of techno’s major pitfalls. The tracks that lack a vocal component, such as “Heavy Rotation” and “Mexican,” are a little redundant.

The real feat of In the Mode is the mobility it creates between techno and other genres. Techno’s success has been largely limited to the adoration of a cult following. It’s not easily commercialized, and rarely has it made significant strides into the mainstream. However, Roni Size seems to be unearthing techno from clubs and cults, making it more palatable to fans of more mainstream music. Considering the success that musical intertwining has shown in recent years, In the Mode’s experimentation could be far-reaching — don’t be surprised if you hear the name Roni Size begin to pop up more frequently in musical culture.

Archived article by Julia Ramey