The song made an appearance on my mid-year list of fave albums / tracks, but I've been meaning to talk about it for a while... got the urge again after talking to someone who had met Rockwell, reading Neuromancer, and listening to Rude Kid's 'The Best' about 5 times in a row yesterday. There's a lot going on in the Rude Kid tune: mournful female murmuring, marching claps, the endlessly repeating synth line, the growing space between the bass thumps and the snare crack. The vox is embedded within the track, and at points drives it. It's an integrated thing, the tension coming from the way elements are pulled out and dumped back in.

Rockwell's 'Aria' is different. It's not an integrated thing. It's six and a half minutes of complexity stumbling over itself until it collapses, and the vox providing the imperative to begin again. "Sing to me" cries the echoing female voice, and the clicks and whirrs spring to life, strangled "eh-eh-eh" noises and an exclamatory "SIGH"about as human as we get. The image I have is of an rusting robot slowly winding down, becoming increasingly erratic as it attempts to perform its functions: a motley collection of sounds doggedly trying to imitate the workings of the human soul.

How do you make modern machine music sing when it's inherently cold and inorganic? Rockwell seems to me to be expressing the loneliness of the obsessive bedroom d&b producer: a life spent organizing bundles of sonic information on computer screens. 'Aria' opens with the sound of surf and birdsong, before the dramatic double blast of drums begin the ordeal: the outside world blocked out, backgrounded, as the Muse invokes and demands the sublime from tools that cannot deliver it.

An aria is a piece for one voice, usually accompanied by an orchestral arrangement. Drum & bass, as the name will tell you, is primarily focused on the arrangement end of the spectrum. Rockwell's focus on the voice here might express a dissatisfaction with what the genre, perhaps instrumental dance music as a whole, has or can achieve.

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