Rob Swift: The Architect

This is the best Ipecac release I’ve reviewed in a long time. As you might guess from the cover aft, Rob Swift is a turntablist. In fact, he’s a member of the X-ecutioners (or was…Roc Raida passed away in 2009) who also had a release on Ipecac (of which I was not that fond).

But this…this I’m fond of. Many of the tracks are arranged into suites with “Movements,” and there’s a classical music influence all over the record. There’s samples and synths, to be sure, but many of them are strings, piano, woodwinds, and brass, all put together in an utterly modern fashion. And Modern with a capital M on top of it…the classical influences here are of a profoundly 20th Century variety. I hear Varèse’s industrial instrumentation and the spliced-together-tape experimentation of Terry Riley.

Turntablism’s such a funny beast. It’s still a completely under-the-radar genre, mostly serving as a backdrop to hip-hop, and due to technical limitations, it should be completely eclipsed by Pro Tools twiddlers. And yet, I find practitioners like Kid Koala and Rob Swift to be completely superior to anything I’ve heard in electronic music (and for the most part I can take or leave MCs as a group). I tend to scoff at musical Luddites, but maybe there’s something to actually mastering playing something beyond just these two anecdotal points and what common sense would dictate.

That last paragraph is just there because I’m finding it hard to write about this album in particular. It works best as a whole. Like a symphony, it’s hard to break down into parts that would stand alone. If I have one complaint it’s that the set-ups outweigh the meat. For example, “Rabia,” the first suite, starts on the CD’s eighth track, and before we get there we have tracks named “Overture,” “Introduction,” and “Prelude To The First Movement.” They’re all good (though there are a few throwaway moments in there, too), it’s just a lot of introduction. Like a meal of tapas instead of an appetizer and then main course.  But man, what tapas.

Mix: “Rabia – 2nd Movement,” “Spartacus,” “Ultimo (feat. Breez Evahflown)”
– “Introduction,” “The Architect,” “Principo (feat. Breez Evahflown),” “Sound The Horn,” “Rabia – 1st Movement,” “Rabia – 3rd Movement,” “Lower Level – 1st Movement,” “Lower Level – 2nd Movement,” “Lower Level – 3rd Movement,” “Sound The Horn (Reprise)”
– “Overture,” “Story Of A Man,” “Prelude To The First Movement,” “D.R.E.W.,” “Intermission”
Song Notes: After the jump

  1. Overture – pipe organ. halloween sounds like wind, footsteps. massive drum hits.
  2. Introduction – mostly like chirping crickets for first half, with some extra sounds coming. Then for the last 40 seconds it builds up really cool.
  3. The Architect – about 100 seconds. “What you’re about to hear is a unique concert…” Not crazy about those samples, which I think are supposed to sound retro but seem to have been recorded just for this album. And I do like the music around it quite a bit. “It can also be used for various moods and styles.” What does that mean?
  4. Principo feat. Breez Evahflown –
  5. Story Of A Man – 20 seconds
  6. Sound The Horn – looped applause. Rhythm here (and elsewhere on album?) is like the Jay-Z “all that dough in one night” line from “Holy Grail.” This shouldn’t work as well as it does, what with the dominance of the looped applause and the repetitive scratching rhythm, but the way the classical timbres filter in and out is really nicely done.
  7. Prelude To The 1st Movement – 30 seconds. Definitely some Varese influence here.
  8. Rabia – 1st Movement –
  9. Rabia – 2nd Movement – yes
  10. Rabia – 3rd Movement – about 52 seconds. spooky, ominous synth sounds
  11. D.R.E.W – about 100 seconds. Not much going on.
  12. Intermission – mostly spooky sounds
  13. Lower Level – 1st Movement – sounds like a Chuck D sample. Back to that “Holy Grail” rhythm.
  14. Lower Level – 2nd Movement –
  15. Lower Level – 3rd Movement – totally epic start with bomb-like sounds, contains some cartoon-like flute stuff in there, too
  16. Spartacus –
  17. Sound The Horn (Reprise) –
  18. Ultimo feat. Breez Evahflown – Breez Evahflown does a great job on this album. Spesh on this track.

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