God bless Roni Size. Not because he cut off those damn dreads of his, but because the Reprazent producer finally got wise and found himself a frontwoman -- not some sampled diva, but a real, live fire-breathing vocalist -- around whom he built his new drum & bass project, Breakbeat Era.
On "Ultra Obscene" Leonie Laws is one ass-whoopin' momma, more like an in-your-face Patti Smith-type than a chanteuse. She's so in the pocket on the title track, singing along to the bassline through every wiggily twist. On "Anti-Everything," Size and co-producer DJ Die put Laws' vocals into such an angry haze, the song sounds like Portishead held over a hot flame.
But Die and Size don't let Laws do all the work; they seem more determined than ever to prove they're still capable of making records for the UK dubplate mafia, pushing jungle out of its sample-dependent climes. "Late Morning" has live drum sounds and an electric guitar so live you can hear it hum. On "Rancid" Laws gives a taste-of-tongue-to-a-9-volt tone: "The junk in your words don't show in your face/ I'll wait for your face to break." Break the beat indeed.