The Alchemist
Russian Roulette


4.0
excellent

Review

by Jacob Royal STAFF
August 6th, 2012 | 46 replies | 8,007 views


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Alan Maman has a delight twisting American hip-hop's leg.

Many have postulated on the origins of Russian Roulette, and each opinion seems equally valid. It’s no secret that choosing Russian jazz improvisation to back underground hip-hop lyricists is an anti-commercial ploy, especially when the album at hand consists of 30 tracks that clock in around 45 minutes. What led to this enigma of an album? Well, some believe that Russian Roulette is a political statement that calls America - and its seemingly unfounded suspicions of the Russian people back in the day - into question. This would make sense because of the light-hearted Russian instrumentals utilized in the album, a collection of musical highlights cultivated to go alongside America’s underbelly so naturally. However, while the thought of Russian Roulette being so meaningful is a pleasant enough idea, it doesn’t seem likely; it’s far more plausible that Alan Maman carried one of his interests over into his most recent work, and in turn developed an interesting spin on hip-hop that carries a strong sense of novelty. Regardless of the angle from which this album was conceived, though, there’s no doubt that it’s effective in every way.

One thing to note about the album is its equal emphasis between producer and performer. The Alchemist chooses his samples wisely; it’s easy enough to imagine him perusing through old Russian vinyls, looking for that one passage that compliments the rest, but his success lies in cultivating something that works passively when needed. Sure, the upbeat inspiration of “Ivan’s Workout Plan” is as off-kilter as a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack, but it’s only to prepare for the menacing “The Turning Point”, a track which couldn’t have a more accurate title. It all flows much better than expected, a delightful surprise for such an oddball album.

“The world is mine / that’s how I feel inside,” Big Twinz spits in one of the biggest tracks we have here, “Moon Probe.” It’s a notable lyric because of how true it is - and it’s this self-assured bravado that defines the guest roles on Russian Roulette. After all, the engaging production at work throughout simply wouldn’t shine as much if it weren’t for the accompanying lyrics to paint a more vivid picture. eXquire’s narrative of a sexual fantasy gone awry in “The Explanation” makes the track’s sinister beat only more dangerous, its anxious pulse defining the album’s conclusion. From these moments it’s easier to see the album’s intended format: a blur of hazy jazz instrumentals and electric guitar licks engulfed in smoke, a makeshift curtain only opening to emphasize the guest stars’ bold additions. These moments are the pinnacles of Russian Roulette, and showcase the Alchemist’s production choices at their prime.

It’d be silly to deny that Russian Roulette is a gamble, and at first the project doesn’t give off an impression of being incredibly focused. With time, though, the pieces of the puzzle begin to find each other. For instance, it seems ludicrous to have eight tracks close out the album, each being centered around “The Kosmos”, but in context one would never think to question the songs’ existence. Part 7 wouldn’t be so lurching if it it weren’t for the strings in Part 6, the ones that wear importance on their sleeves as they mutate into something terrifying and beautiful. It’s all like a bad dream, one that keeps you up while keeping you entranced in its origins.



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user ratings (26)
Chart.
3.2
good

Comments:Add a Comment 
CaptainDooRight
August 6th 2012



26459 Comments


good review bro, pos

don't listen to much hip-hop but based on your descriptions I might check this.

Digging: Deniro Farrar - The Patriarch II

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
August 6th 2012



9492 Comments


"Apollo's Last Stand" - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYpbhyc0nGc
"The Turning Point" - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDzI8ZGUOrE
"Moon Probe" - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Uw2qWbCT68

Thanks Captain! :] this is definitely one fascinating album. Check out these songs, and see what you think.


Digging: Koan Sound - Dynasty

CaptainDooRight
August 6th 2012



26459 Comments


"The Turning Point" is decent. I could blaze to that. It's a bit repetative though. I didn't really did "Apollo's..", and on "Moon Probe" I couldn't stand the guy's raspy voice. The beat had potential though.

LifeAsAChipmunk
August 6th 2012



4854 Comments


"album at hand consists of 30 tracks that clock in around 45 minutes."

Wow, I'll try this one out. Sounds interesting.

elephantREVOLUTION
August 6th 2012



2702 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

glad someone reviewed this. pos!

Digging: IDYLLS - Prayer For Terrene

deepintheorchard
August 6th 2012



644 Comments


Good review but I can't stand this album.

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
August 6th 2012



9492 Comments


If you don't care for the rappers, you can at least listen to an instrumental interlude or two - they're captivating enough to
appreciate, even if you aren't the biggest hip-hop fan.

XGX - oh yeah, this is like if grindcore multiplied and had 30 little grindcore babies.

And not sure how one can not stand this album o_O thank you!

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
August 6th 2012



4339 Comments


I heard some songs on youtube while I read your review. It's good stuff, I really liked "Oleg's Flight". Pretty lengthy album though. POS'd.

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
August 6th 2012



9492 Comments


Thanks man. :] this seems like the kinda thing you'd dig. You think this album's long though? it's only 45 mins despite the crazy tracklisting.

And that Contributing Reviewer tag looks so nice under your name!

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
August 6th 2012



4339 Comments


Yeah, I liked the songs you recommended. Very good find, man.

And that Contributing Reviewer tag looks so nice under your name!

...right back at ya!

bloc
August 6th 2012



34499 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Pretty fun album.

I like these types of hip-hop albums every now and then.

Digging: He Is Legend - I Am Hollywood

mindleviticus
August 6th 2012



7940 Comments


When I first saw this, I thought this was the avant garde metal band Alchemist

kingsoby1
Emeritus
August 7th 2012



4830 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

very tempted to 1 this without even listening :]

Digging: Nmesh - Dream Sequins

D41V30N
August 7th 2012



949 Comments


Damn, I thought Australia's Alchemist (Industrial Death-ish) released a new album .

ZedO
August 7th 2012



1096 Comments


omg that tracklist... good review btw pos

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
August 7th 2012



9492 Comments


Sobhi, you're going to have to explain that one!

And thanks guys, it's a really fun album.

ComfortablyDumb
August 7th 2012



392 Comments


The plural of vinyl is vinyl. Vinyls isn't a word.

Really good review besides that though

kingsoby1
Emeritus
August 7th 2012



4830 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

i just hate alchemist with a passion. he is easily the worst "popular" underground producer today. He and statik selektah both.

taylormemer
August 7th 2012



4887 Comments


Speaking of which:

http://thepluralofvinyl.com/

PorkchopExpress
August 7th 2012



382 Comments


I don't think I'll ever quite understand your immense hatred for Alchemist, Sobhi.

Nice review. Still haven't had a chance to listen to this, but it's in my list of thing to check out next.

Digging: Pure X - Angel



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