Review Summary: The flash of light in the corner of your eye.
The word that most accurately encapsulates everything about That's Harakiri
, which is to date the only full album from Wisconsin-based producer Sd Laika, is 'mysterious'. The name of the artist does not hint at where they're from, which means the listener has to find out for themselves. That admittedly unsettling cover art does not give away any details. Lyrics are not available in any track, so there is a less of a chance to provide even a fragment of context behind the songs. The producer behind all the music hasn't even done any interviews, making the entire album an intriguing blank slate. Anyone who takes 31 minutes out of their lives to listen to it is encouraged to place their own meaning on the songs--there is no concept to gather from any of it. Left with a complete lack of information regarding background or meaning, That's Harakiri
becomes all the more exciting, permitting such a wide space for individual interpretation.
One of the few resemblances between many of the songs on the album is where the samples seem to come from. Everything spawns from the industrial nature of an urban city. It's easy to envision the idea that a microphone was set up on a bustling sidewalk and the sounds it captured are employed in every minute. This means that Peace
works well as an opener, since the very first sound you hear is an incredibly booming rendition of that urban static. Subtle cracks in the droning frequencies increase in intensity until they lead into a synth-driven hellscape that can barely keep itself within the confines of audio. This objective of being loud and in your face is maintained throughout the entire album. Meshes
contains a few sections where the only sounds present are loud white noise and a booming kick drum. Remote Heaven
is nearly unsettling as the beat forms overtime out of coughing sounds and robotic bass thuds.
The entire album feels grounded in the 'wonky' sound, although if you want a descriptor that sounds a bit more serious, try out 'post-industrial'. However, I doubt Sd Laika would even be able to assign a definitive genre to this entire work. That is absolutely acceptable, but it does appear to take away some cohesion from That's Harakiri
. While there is still a general feeling of maximalist, un-quantized rhythms and amplified subtlety, it simply does not feel like enough. 11 songs barely need to stretch themselves in order to cover these 31 minutes. Some of the slightly longer ones, such as You Were Wrong
, feel needlessly flaunted. Meanwhile, Peaked
has the makings of a very complex idea, an introduction to something strong. That feeling is never gratified, though. The song ends at 1:15, becoming an preamble to something that was abandoned.
If anything brings down That's Harakiri
it is that lack of cohesion. Some great ideas do not feel fully realized, and some pretty good ideas overstay their welcome. The Bandcamp page for Sd Laika contains some explanation by the label that reached out to him, Tri Angle Records. They claim that these songs had been produced two or three years prior to the release date, and Laika told himself the songs "would never see the light of the day." Therefore, this project feels like a short compilation. Of course, many compilations sound exquisite. But a good chunk of this one leaves you wanting more. After four years, we haven't even come close to Sd Laika pushing his music further outside the boundaries of experimental hip hop. What we have is great, but what we don't have makes it almost annoying.