Brown Paper Bag – Roni Size / Reprazent (1997)

Whilst this is actually the third single to be lifted from Roni Size / Repratzent’s debut studio album New Forms, with the benefit of hindsight, Brown Paper Bag with it’s distinctive double-bass played by Si Brown has come to be most representative of, and responsible for, the critical success of the album (which went five time platinum and won the Mercury Prize).

The original nine minute monster of the album track takes you a journey commencing with the bass sparsely interplaying with Steven Graham’s acoustic guitar over a half time rhythm before segueing into a mid-tempo drum n bass roller as electronic minutiae fly past the listener, sometimes fluttering like a bird, and other times zipping through like a projectile. The rhythm intensifies the longer the ride goes, culminating in crescendo strings which burst in on themselves like sunlight breaking the dawn as the track winds down.

At 1:54, the first break has just started with a lick from Si Brown’s double bass, there’s a moment when the tail of the bass note just hangs in solitude aside from an harmonic single piano note. The pause is so heavy in it’s sparsity, it’s like hearing a black hole.

The Roni Size Full Vocal Remix clocks in at half the length but still packs an almighty punch – the deep space of the original filled instead with Size’s toasting-rap imploring the audience to “Step to the rhythm made out of brown paper” – the repeated steps in the latter part of the track serving to intensify the the ensuing dancefloor frenzy.

Within the context of this mix Onallee (Tracey Bowen)’s “mmmmm” vocalization takes on a totally new role to that it underplayed in the original album mix. Here, it’s interpolated into Size’s rap simultaneously adding an element of hype and a reflection of dancefloor appreciation. At 2:14 it’s elongated from it’s earlier appearance in the track – it acts as an hallelujah to “The sound is the music and the music is the feature” and it’s transcendental in that very point.