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Unknown – Sicko Cell review

There’s been a lot of debate surrounding “Sicko Cell”, chiefly around the identity of the (kind of) anonymous producer. The general consensus is that Joy Orbison is responsible, which would come as no surprise to anyone with a keen ear for his productions; “Sicko Cell” has much in common with “BB”, released on Orbison’s Doldrums imprint last year: stripped back 808 patterns, phased bassline, a demonically pitched down vocal sample and most tellingly, house inspired chords which ring out in the background.

Of course there is an equally valid argument surrounding the track: is it actually any good? The fact is that nothing quite like this has been released; although it comes from a similar angle to the juke inspired productions of artists like Addison Groove and Machinedrum, there’s an equal part to the track that has as much in common with the paranoid dub experiments of Hype Williams. It’s a track built around two competing energies, the rush of the “too much” vocal sample and drums, and the sludgy “cocaine powder” sample and bassline which alternately drags everything into its centre of gravity, but despite this it’s the way that the sample is turned into such an unlikely pop hook that really makes this track so effective.

For many though, the better track may be “Knock Knock”. The samples are cut into smaller pieces, and although that same sense of push and pull remains, the effect is a lot more self-contained, and together with the titular rhythm that never really lets up, creates an effect more suited to maintaining dancefloor momentum. It’s the contrasting warmer mood though, brought on by the sublime synth breakdown filling the track’s sparse production that will probably win most people over. It’s the perfect blend of the total euphoria of “Hyph Mngo” and his more stripped back work like “Wade In”; this restraint is something that suits him particularly well, and as such makes it one of his most balanced productions to date.

Scott Wilson