At the beginning of “Sir Benni Miles,” the leadoff track from Armand Hammer‘s new album Haram, there’s a sample of a voice addressing a crowd of people: “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sorry to disturb your dancin’ and enjoyment, but the reason I’m calling you this evening is…” And then he just stops. You’d think this would be the point at which The Alchemist’s production would come booming through the speakers, but instead it’s a slow fade, as if to let the listener know that they’re in for a slow burn.
“Sir Benni Miles” is only three minutes long, but it has a handful of such moments of ebb and flow, open space and slow return, but billy woods and Elucid’s verses—delivered with only that reflective pause and no chorus between them—come fast and with vivid imagery against Alchemist’s hazy, oozing synth backing. Where woods opens with a knotty cautionary dive about high aspirations and low ceilings (“Dreams is dangerous, linger like angel dust…You gonna need a bigger boat, you gonna need a smaller ocean“), Elucid counters with a promise to slap box Judge Mathis and Judge Wapner. There’s a playfulness even in the darkest of statements, and a twinge of menace even on their best punchlines. Even at just a fairly concise two verses, it’s a lot to untangle—it’s probably a good thing, then, that The Alchemist allows us a few more seconds to process the journey.
From Haram, out now via Backwoodz
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.