Ultra: Roni Size and Reprazent bring pure drum ‘n’ bass back

Singer Onallee with Roni Size in Reprazent's first US appearance in seven years.
Singer Onallee with Roni Size in Reprazent's first US appearance in seven years.
Roni Size wanted Miami’s Ultra Music Festival to know what exactly it was listening to.

He pointed to the drum kit. “Just the drums! I just want the drums!

“You see, we don’t have no CDs, no backing tracks! This is real drum and bass!” Size said, drawing out the last three words that also define the kind of music that first made him and his group Reprazent stars during the 1990s.

Size reconvened Reprazent last year when he put out a deluxe edition of New Forms, the LP that won him the Mercury Music Prize in 1997. Back in 1997, Size was a massive part of the drum ‘n’ bass scene that also featured Goldie (who was also in attendance at Ultra), Squarepusher and A Guy Called Gerald.

Drum ‘n’ bass is characterized by a bass-heavy, fast sound that got its start in the rave scene in the United Kingdom. Size came from one of the sound’s biggest Meccas — Bristol.

And he proved Friday, in the band’s first U.S. appearance in seven years, that he and Reprazent still had it. Many of the original members are still in the band, including vocalist Onallee and bass player Si John.

With Onallee bringing powerful hooks to life, Size got the crowd hopping in a hot, sweaty cauldron of dance.

They all knew exactly what they were listening to.

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Black-Eyed Peas back together with a Boom, a Boom and a Pow

Finally, a great shot of the Peas... hey! Move that camera!
Finally, a great shot of the Peas... hey! Move that camera!
Finally, the Peas are back in the same pod.

Over the last two years, you’ve seen various members of the Black Eyed Peas all over the place. Fergie performed her solo album The Dutchess and appeared in movies; Will.i.am got out the vote for President Obama, released a solo album and produced.

But in returning to the fold, all of the Peas — which also include rappers Apl.de.ap and Taboo — began working their music and style in a different way.

The best example is the band’s brand new single, “Boom Boom Pow”, an extremely danceable song that is nowhere near out of place at Ultra Music Festival in Miami, where the band debuted the song on stage Friday.

“‘Boom Boom Pow’ is a part of experiments I’ve been doing,” Will.i.am said in a news conference before their performance. “I wanted to make a song that was basically one whole verse, and in mid-song pull in an whole new beat, inspiring DJs to play the song the full way.”

It was a highlight of the band’s brief but well-received performance at the festival, the centerpiece of the Winter Music Conference — a week-long electronic music celebration that brings together some of the top DJs in the world.

“The DJ is the most important thing in music today,” Will.i.am said. “When we released ‘Boom Boom Pow’, with the straight version, the a capella version and more, we wanted to give DJs the tools to help ‘Boom Boom Pow’ reach all different kinds of areas.”

“The song is based in the kind of clubs where we know it will live,” Fergie added. “People need something that makes them feel good right now.”

“Boom Boom Pow” is the first salvo of the upcoming The E.N.D. The band members say the new album’s sound is more along the lines of electro, a high-energy sound that also pulls them away from the poppier elements of the Peas’ last two LPs.

“The sound kind of reminds me of what hip-hop was like in 1980,” Will.i.am said. “It’s celebrating the kind of sound of what is happening in the world.”