Review: Visionist – Snakes

With an inauspicious start as one of a multitude of 808 sample pack wielders, not many people would have tipped Visionist to emerge as one of the singular talents of 2013. Despite this, after a couple of Swamp 81-esque releases and minor infamy as a Boiler Room backing dancer something special happened. Reconnecting with an earlier love of grime, some exceptional dubs started circulating on Rinse, culminating in an astounding all Visionist production mix for Dusk & Blackdown’s radio show at the end of 2012. Ten months later, the centre piece of that mix arrives via all encompassing Berghain partymongers Leisure System with the musical terrain looking extremely favourable. As we’ve begun to showcase a new wave of adventurous grime indebted producers have carved out a space for themselves: some augmenting the experimentation of the original scene into new global dance styles; others equally fruitfully continuing the sound in much the same vein as the originators.

How does Visionist fit in with all this? In terms of compositional ethos releases like “Snakes” unquestionably fit on the same continuum as the best of 03, from the sonic exploration in the convulsing synth lines to the maximal-minimalism at work in constructing monumental edifices from so few parts. You might recognise the kick drum nod to “Ice Rink” in “Snakes” opening bars and only someone totally uninitiated could fail to recognise the gun cocks put to use as propulsive skipping percussion. Despite this, drawing direct lines of continuity with classic era grime is a mistake. It should be clear that whatever his relationship with the old era Visionist is more than anything pushing outwards, not content to simply rehash past glories to unfamiliar audiences.

Thus instead of square waves and Wiley snares, on the title track Visionist opts for bizarre frequency modulated chimes and declarative chants. “Snakebite” ups the ante on camera clicks and gun shots to a disorienting level, with Silencer-style apocalyptic horns threatening to emerge only for a left turn into a reverb drenched denouement briefly flipping the script before increasing the intensity. What is most impressive about these tracks isn’t just their uniqueness relative to a given scene, but more importantly their cohesiveness in demonstrating what has become a pronounced and well defined signature sound for Visionist. Although earlier forays with ghostly sampled choirs threatened to drown out not only vocals but also all of his tracks into indistinguishable reverb mush, on this and forthcoming Lit City Trax EP “I’m Fine” the same impulses are executed with restraint and aplomb. It’s beginning to make sense to talk about the Visionist sound, and as the last bars of the Zomby-esque “Poison” run out it should be apparent that it’s a special one.

Stream: Visionist – Snakebite (Leisure System Records)

Visionist’s “Snakes” EP is out now on Leisure System Records. 

Simon Docherty