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  • Filed under: Review
  • 08/08/2012

SD Laika Unknown Vectors

With only a handful of tracks to his name, Visionist seems an unlikely producer to up and start his own label. But his involvement with fledgling imprints like 92 Points and Left Blank has evidently served him well, because SD Laika's Unknown Vectors, the first release for his newly minted Lost Codes imprint, is as boisterous of a mission statement as one is likely to find.

To say SD Laika follows upon those labels' experimental nature is a mild understatement, as Unknown Vectors is a truly bizarre record. Its palette is largely drawn from grime—laser guns and searing square waves abound—but its producer rearranges these tropes with a caustic sense of mischief. Grime’s alien soundscaping has long been one of its key selling points, and SD Laika exploits this to florid extremes.

"Spaceman Piff" finds him building on a volatile, stuttering, eski-style pattern, dropping in 8-bit squeals and savage, elongated rushes as it progresses. "Creepy Crawling," meanwhile, is aptly titled; the track lurches through a rhythm more splattered than programmed, and the producer couples it with a pitched-down groan as a rambunctious melody makes its way to the fore. The track's outrageous flurry of percussion is countered on "Tropic of Cancer," where measured, gridlocked kicks provide a strangely normal, easily beat-matchable backdrop for jackhammering zaps and a toweringly aggressive synth overlay.

In somewhat of an odd sequencing choice, Visionist’s remix of "Spaceman Piff" follows, breaking "Tropic of Cancer" from its logical counterpart, "Tropic of Capricorn." It’s the longest track here by a considerable distance, and clearly constructed with the dancefloor in mind. But the source material proves to be a bit much for Visionist to cohere. Although no less frenetic than the rest of the EP, SD Laika's harrowing mutations are not easily molded to a grid, and thus the remix seems a little unsure of itself, aiming in several directions at once. It's a valiant effort at taming a wild track, but ultimately, it goes to show why the comparable likes of Actress or Zomby aren't remixed very often. "Tropic of Capricorn" reprises several themes from "Tropic of Cancer," including a vocal sample, in which a man wonders why he's "still sane." Considering its feverish backdrop, one starts to question its maker's sanity. It's a fitting finale to a brief but truly exhausting EP.

As difficult as it is to imagine anyone spitting over these tracks, SD Laika wholeheartedly embraces grime's malicious futurism. At the same time, Unknown Vectors almost feels like a devolution, like eski on PCP—the genre's clinical menace turned base, provocative, and punishingly crazy.

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