Today’s Sounds: The Alchemist


The Alchemist Russian Roulette (Decon)

The concept is a gamble. This isn’t an “album,” according to hip hop architect the Alchemist. But it’s not a mixtape either. It’s not an instrumental affair, but neither is it exclusively a rap throwdown.

Rather, Russian Roulette spins a highly refined collection of loops assembled entirely from sampled Russian sounds of all genres. Unless you are an aficionado of the source material – and I certainly have no particular point of reference for it, myself – ya’ gotta just sorta trust that Alchemist’s world renowned crates could probably fill a hot Soviet block.

The music isn’t all-out on some frantic Tetris shit, or like, deep-voiced men booming patriotic chants. Sometimes it is, but expect more in the way of cheesy, post-Gorbachev pop/rock guitars and synth-driven strings-and-horn noodles, with trip-ily arranged vocal samples all chopped up to move with more intrigue than a Cold War spy film.

Had this been an instrumental release, the randomly sequenced dialogue samples (more “roulette” than “Russian”, in that they seem to lack any real thematic arc) would have tied together pretty fine, donut-type collection for heads to smoke to.

There are no clear-cut songs. The tracks are titled but each bleeds into the next, and I hear the accompanying sleeve art is impressive, each track given its own illustration.

But then, lockin’ in like fitted block arrangements, come the rappers.

Most are mainstay collaborators, many newer to the mix. Evidence, Guilty Simpson and Roc Marciano take shit in stride like old pros while Fashawn, Brown, Q and Exquire, each in their own right a young master, all rap like they got a gun to their head to excel.

The Alchemist’s signature throughout his evolution has been his marriage of East Coast grit to West Coast laissez-faire, intact here despite how far around the globe he goes to deliver this banger, one chamber at a time. Be wery, wery kier-full, but always bet on Alc.


Simian Mobile Disco, “Species Out of Control”

This British production team delivers some very boring ’90s visuals here, but a track to herald the weekend and counter everyday monotony with monotony of its own? Always a pleasure.



Bob Dylan, “Duquesne Whistle”

Another WTF moment in Dylan’s career: an innocent romantic/stalker/thief gets beaten and bloodied while Dylan and his ridiculous posse strut around like they own the streets. The song is dull; the video is dumb entertainment.

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