Milwaukee-based Peter Runge - aka Sd Laika - shouldered his way onto the scene back in 2011 how most producers do: with an EP. Unknown Vectors siphoned off plenty of critical attention, and was an astute debut record for Visionist’s grime-focused Lost Codes label, but Runge didn’t follow through, and the momentum faded away all too swiftly. Grime has since seen a fresh batch of producers, including the likes of Logos, Rabit (a fellow American) and Wen. But if Wen’s futuristic basslines, or Logos’ total minimalism have sometimes put off listeners (a disgruntled commenter once described Cold Mission as like walking with one headphone in) then Sd Laika’s That’s Harakari might be the antidote. On it, vigorous and outlandish sounds find themselves squashed up against the wildly distorted, almost unrecognisable patterns of dance and grime. The results are powerful, if sometimes confused.
Lead single 'Meshes' is tribal and infectious enough to dance to, but also so changeable that you’re more likely to get disorientated by it than led towards the dance-floor. Similar patterns emerge throughout That’s Harakari. Runge more often than not unleashes tracks to run in dislocated rings around you, rather than taking the heavily choreographed, more elegant approach that Patten (with whom comparisons seem never-ending) espoused on his latest. Having been liberated from neglected hard drives - mainly at the request of Tri Angle - track after track here plies its trade with pure energy and not much else. Whilst this makes for a visceral, intensely demanding record, it also leaves That’s Harakari treading the immensely fine line between confused and confusing.
When ‘Great God Pan’ transitions from shimmering dystopian synths to rampant percussion, however, it’s clear that this chopped up, unruly music is the mantra by which Runge creates. Rather than constructing narratives, or developing concepts, he makes tunes with a tendency to clobber you round the head. Even the relatively melodic ‘You Were Wrong’, whose simplistic piano line might fool you into a false sense of security, breaks in and out of white noise and a twitchy, overconfident bass-line chaotically. ‘Don’t Know’ follows this up with a clanking, slightly flanged piece of tribal rhythm that’s probably the most domineering track on the LP.
Grime has always sounded dark, aggressive and futuristic, but also distinctly human, and Sd Laika takes the human, London-bound elements of the genre and turns them into something more primal, and much less in control. That’s Harakari is neither self-conscious nor self-aware, but it’s wildly overbearing, and aside from generally hovering around the 140bpm mark, and being uniformly uncouth, there’s little to tie together the various songs here – no overarching motif, no distinct pattern. It might well be the perfect way to piece together a pieced together collection of tracks, however the LP also feels as though if it were any longer it would fall apart in your ears. At 32 minutes, it’s a short album - but one whose brashness and pace you won’t soon forget.
7Josh Suntharasivam's Score