Others may have been doing it before him, but it was Roska who asserted himself as the production figurehead of UK funky during its first few years. While his earliest material matched cheap grime instrumentation with raw, soca-tinged percussion, the Elevated Levels and TWC EPs saw him cater to the respective tastes of more conventional tech house and deep house DJs, giving him much more crossover potential than UK-centric acts such as Apple, Ill Blu and Lil Silva. (It didn't hurt that his trademark "Roska! Roska! Roska!" vocal snatch also made his name instantly recognisable to anyone who'd been spending time in clubs playing UK funky.)
Listeners who found this irksome will be glad to know that it only pops up a handful of times on his debut full-length. Instead, Roska has decided to showcase the vocal side of his sound, something we've seen before on Jamie George collaborations "Wonderful Day" and "Love 2 Nite," both of which appear here. While it's understandable that Roska wants to make his debut album more accessible to a wider audience, it seems like a missed opportunity to plump for both of George's somewhat cheap and cheesy vocal cuts over earlier and much more exciting selections such as "Boxed In" and "If You Believe in Love."
Thankfully, the other vocals on Roska manage to hit the spot better, with Nikki (who has also featured on funky tracks by Geeneus and Zinc) flexing her multi-tracked UK diva tendencies to great effect atop the surging colourful chords of "Energy," and Anesha getting looped up on "I Need Love," which aims to be the deep centrepiece of the record. Anesha's vocal works well with the chord progression and descending synth motif, but Roska's percussion is surprisingly rigid and doesn't really progress throughout. The real highlight of the record's first half is the raucous stomp of "Hey Cutie," which utilises a brief female vocal sample ("Hey cutie over there!") which is cut up and repeated throughout, while managing to capture the energy and dance floor potential that made us take the producer seriously in the first place.
The second half of Roska is almost a halfway house between the rough and edgy side of Roska, and the deeper, tech house-esque work that he's already demonstrated on his TWC EP. "Messages" manages to balance delicately placed swung beats with jittery stabs to create a tense heads-down vibe, "Time Stamp" (which featured on 2562's recent RA podcast) goes for the guttural with its heavy bassline, and "Tomorrow Comes Today" wiggles along with a combination of synthesized string riffs and snappy snares; again, though, there is little in the way of track development.
Roska is a talented producer who is happy to exist outside the realm of cookie-cutter UK funky tracks, but there is something ultimately disappointing about his first venture into the album format. A good portion of the tracks included on Roska work well in the context of a rapid-fire DJ set, but once you stretch them out and throw them all together on an unmixed CD, it's hard to resist reaching for the skip button at least a few times. As the first UK funky producer to throw themselves wholeheartedly into the format, let's hope that the others following in his footsteps don't make the same mistakes.
Buy Roska - Rinse Presents Roska at
Tracklist: Roska - Rinse Presents Roska 01. Tomorrow Is Today
02. Roska & Jamie George - "Love 2nite"
03. I Need Love (feat Anesha)
05. Energy (feat Nikki)
06. Hey Cutie
07. Time Stamp
09. Burn In Flames
10. Roska & Jamie George - "Wonderful Day"
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