Architect • Sonic Area • Hologram_
We Are the Alchemists
If you were guessing that a collaboration between the projects that co-produced We Are the Alchemists would be heavy on sound design, you’d be absolutely correct. Between Daniel Myer (Architect, Haujobb), Arco Trauma (Sonic Area, Chrysalide) and Martin Delisle (Hologram_, Republik of Screens) you’ve got a veritable murderer’s row of sonic wizards: the sort of scene personalities that blur the line between musician, technician and DAW auteur. Consequently their new collaborative LP is a lush, elaborately constructed affair that represents all three of its creator’s individual strengths, but at times struggles to consolidate them into a singular delivery.
A good deal of the time spent listening to We Are the Alchemsists can be taken up trying to link up individual elements to the producer who might be responsible. Are the enormous distorted synth chords that appears numerous times throughout the album’s early cuts more common to Trauma’s sensibility or Myer’s? The low bitrate drums that make up the body of “Spark the Coil” sure sound like they could have come from Hologram_, but then their stop start and lurching rhythms say Sonic Area too. The dusty opening to the soundtracky “Solve et Coagula” makes us think Architect, but the sample work that creeps in keeps us guessing. We feel a bit more confident about the submerged arpeggios on closer “The Great Voyager” being Trauma’s handiwork. Trying to parse the record out on a track by track basis might seem odd, but it’s actually a sort of byproduct of the record’s own assembly; like a jazz recording it often seems like each producer is taking a “solo” of sorts before fading back to allow the next guy in line to be up front in the mix.
This sort of trainspotting may be catnip to anoraks like us, but it doesn’t necessarily port We Are The Alchemists over into being the realm of albumcraft. Taken individually, the dynamics between individual producers’ fortes yields some great tensions and rhapsodies, as opener “Steaming The Lab” demonstrates. A soupy bed of clicks and pads is churned into a maelstrom by processed guitars and punishing snares, with chord progressions that could have easily gone unnoticed earlier on now firing directly into the ears. As it fades out again there’s a real sense of cyclical completion, of a self-contained, miniature symphony. The issue is that with nearly each track functioning as its own miniature ecosystem, there’s not much to link tracks to each other, resulting in a collection of individual tracks rather than a unified album.
This isn’t necessarily a drawback if We Are The Alchemists is approached as the sort of metaphysical experiment which its name points to. Symphonic, percussive, and sequenced elements kick off each other with vigor and clarity. The prospect of three producers of this caliber doing triple threat transmutation with each other’s elements is paid off well, regardless of the final forms their thaumaturgy takes.