Saturday, 23 July 2011

Unknown - Sicko Cell/Knock Knock (SWAMP014)

Six months after what can only be described as a relentless domination of the circuit, this year’s most anticipated and discussed record arrives. Talk has abounded the much documented A-side ‘Sicko Cell', relating to various issues and establishing fractions in the track’s reception. The most persistent question has seemingly been the identity behind the producer of the track, a subject which in all honesty shouldn’t have much too much of a bearing on the interpretation of music. However, it always has and always will. Has the anonymity of the producer contributed to the hype surrounding 'Sicko Cell'? Undoubtedly so, but I strongly believe a similar height of attention would have been paid to the track had the producer in hand revealed himself, purely based on the draw of the record.

Discussion of the tracks themselves have somewhat been underplayed due to the prominence of the previous matter, unfairly so as well. There is undeniably something special about this 12”. It’s not the fact an ‘unknown’ producer is behind the work, or the fact that Ben UFO and Oneman have been spinning the dubs since late 2010; there’s a real distinctiveness to the release. These are two memorable yet minimal killers, a fact proven by their 6 month sticking power.

This is particularly true in the case of ‘Sicko Cell’. It’s seemingly contradictory, combining challenging rhythms with the popular awareness of its sampling. The track’s introduction alarms, with various bleeps and razor synths providing layers for the eminent hypnotic vox’d line “I’m the information. Cocaine powder”. The bass kicks hit home earlier than anticipated, soon joined by shuffling hats and the Page sample. The track finally forms its full intricate 808 rhythm, with deep kicks offset neatly by padded toms and soft rim shots. A cold chord arrangement forms a deadly Detroit-esque melody, whilst cries of “too much” resonate in frenetic repetition. This measured build up leads to the track’s climax, a wonderfully twisted breakdown which provides its pinnacle. The vox’d sample directly repeats the opening line, whilst poignantly yearning synthlines provide the perfect foil for Neyo’s bewail “I’m so addicted”. It’s a brilliantly constructed track, causing damage on dancefloors through subtle rhythms and superb samples.

The B-side has been criminally overlooked for me due to the attention directed to ‘Sicko Cell’. ‘Knock Knock’ is an altogether warmer track, whilst still incorporating an introspective element to its sound. Sharp toms immediately align and set the order, whilst the beautiful brooding synthlines tenderly assemble a melody characteristic of this artist’s talents. Pounding bass kicks provide depth to the 808 rhythm alongside quick fire hats, and carefully cut vocal snippets contribute a lamenting tone alongside the ever rising and receding synths. This may just be the stronger of the two tracks in my opinion, skilfully balancing the strong rhythm with emotional melodies.

It’s a very strong release, one which will no doubt be remembered for a quite a while. The A-side will be for crowd pleaser for months to come, and rightly so. I do hope the underplayed ‘Knock Knock’ is given the attention it deserves in the near future. As per usual full marks to Swamp81 who provide yet another outstanding release, finished with typically flawless artwork and pressed on 180g vinyl. Purchase.

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