Spanner In The Works: Roska

"...it's important to look back on things"
Roska t.jpg
"Shorter tracks, more vocals, a shift in tempos and smoother flows", says Roska of his forthcoming second album on Rinse recordings, a project he has been itching to put out since the release of his self-titled debut album back in 2010.

Still regarded as one of funky's chief standard bearers in many quarters, it has been interesting to see Roska's sound take on something of a new persona over the last 18 months. Whilst stylistically still laden with funky influences, Roska 2 is a record of not only great progression but new and powerful ideas; strikingly, the only survivor from his first outing is good friend and collaborator Jamie George. This is not to say that Roska 2 marks some sort of revolutionary overhaul in his approach however. "You can see the progression in my sound in this one" he says, "It's moved on from being just funky - it all fits in to what I do now and who I'm around."

In and amongst two excellent vocal tracks from Mz Bratt and songstress Ruby Goe, the album is awash with innovation, underpinned by grimy elements that hark back to Roska's earliest productions. A one time grime hit maker, recent collaborations with Terror Danjah and Champion seem to have reinvigorated Roska's taste for the genre, a fact made all the more apparent on tracks like 'OnRinseSinceZeroEight' and 'Eleven 45'. Funky does retain some influence, bubbling over nicely on 'Metric' and 'Do You Like This' with Jamie George in particular but is certainly no longer the defining feature of Roska albums.

The biggest statement on the album comes in the form of 'Spanner in The Works' however, which sees Roska join forces with multi-talented grime lynchpin Swindle and dubstep protege Funtcase. "It was pretty intentional", he explains. "I had a vision of what I wanted and me and Swindle actually started it a year ago but I re-worked it over time and got Funtcase involved. I've been talking to him for a good few months now and felt he could bring something raw to the smooth chords and skippy drum pattern." A calculated risk or a stroke of genius? Either way, the results speak for themselves with the track already racking up extensive airplay on both Rinse and Radio 1 and in effect redefining what people have come to expect over the past 4 years.

Further notable reference points are arguably a little more subtle but all tie into the fact that this is Roska's most accomplished work to date. Alongside aforementioned intriguing features and new musical directions, it retains a consistent level of club worthiness that the first outing possibly lacked, even despite the cult status of dance floor favourite 'Squark'. "It was a good stepping stone", he explains "and definitely something I looked back on and learnt from when putting the new album together."

Indeed it would be fair to say that Roska 2 is most definitely a more concise, well rounded offering too. Longer, drawn out instrumentals have been scrapped in favour of shorter, more listener-conscious tracks that compensate for people's complex listening habits whilst still holding on to their DJ friendly status. Vocal tracks also play a more prominent role in the overall feeling of things and varied tempos add vital balance, an essential feature of successful contemporary dance music compilations. The secret? Adaptation. "Over time, I've just adapted everything. I've tried to make it Iphone and Ipod friendly but DJ/club friendly at the same time. I think I've found that balance."

There is room for improvement though. Although stand out tracks like 'Badman' featuring Sweetie Irie and 'Spanner in the Works' are of an exceptional productional standard, Roska's development as an artist has so far been shaped not only by his taste for experimentation but self-reflection. "I learnt a lot from the first one and feel like I made the right improvements to the second. I'll definitely do the same with the third one too because it's important to look back on things. If you can't find a fault or room to improve as an artist or even a person, then life just got a bit dead-out for you. We've all got room to improve."

Album aside, Roska is also keen to pay tribute to Rinse, an organisation regularly referred to by its DJs as more of a family than mere radio station. "It's definitely a good place to be" he acknowledges, although also admits 'you never know how the future may pan out'. That being said, 'OnRinseSinceZeroEight', a track he views as a 'look back on how and where I started', is a testament to how proud he is to have played such a role in the station's development. He remains very much a part of the station's future too, with a third album installment due to follow Roska 2 in the next few years. "I can just see myself pushing more and more good music through a great outlet" he says. And long may it continue.

So there we have it, Roska 2; a surprisingly edgy but wonderfully refined effort from one of Rinse's most consistent mainstays. Highly recommended.

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Words by Tomas Fraser

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