Sd Laika reconfigures grime from the inside out on his Tri Angle debut. But is it well executed? Daniel Jones finds out.
Coming from the US, grime was something I discovered rather late in the game. By the time Wiley was in full pop mode, I was just finding out that the Roll Deep collective existed. The elements that drew me to it—dirty beats, guttural bass and hard slap-in-the-face vocals—are essentialy the same elements that drew me to industrial music and early gangsta rap. Unknown Vectors, Peter Runge’s debut as Sd Laika, flays layers off grime’s body like a butcher, stripping it down to the barest fragments and jamming bizarre new metallic elements into it like a sonic version of Tetsuo: The Iron Man. The eleven tracks on That’s Harakiri never quite eclipse that stuttering, dehumanized piece of work, but it does form a fascinating picture at an artist intent on disorientation.
From the reversed opening “Peace” and into the arrhythmic loop of “Great God Pan”, the listener is kept constantly off-balance. Runge’s world is a chaotic soup where bicycle bells chime and tin cans clank over pulses of compressed 8-bit stabs, a voice intoning the word “black” with no context, static washing and scouring everything. Rarely does anything coalesce into an actual tune, though “Don’t Know” and “It’s Ritual” make game attempts with gasping, slo-mo grooves and blown out tribal techno, respectively. As fascinatingly ugly (in the best way possible) as it all is, the lack of a structural coherency in the album overall makes That’s Harakiri drag in places—a shame, because there’s so much to love here. Push aside some of the mud and Azathoth whistling and you’ll find the shine of those beautifully metallic oddities that Sd Laika introduced itself with. ~
Label/Release date: Tri Angle /Out now.