If there still exists the argument deriding the merits of the turntable as a legitimate musical instrument, Rob Swift’s latest offering just might put it to bed for good.
The Architect, Rob’s first solo studio album since 2005’s War Games, places the Jackson Heights, Queens, native and his gifted hands center stage as he eschews features (one emcee – Breez Evahflowin’ – complements two tracks) for thorough solo cut compositions with palpable substance. It’s a carefully constructed LP that dispenses with the novelty of songs built from scratch by a deejay and simply spotlights the creativity of a musician.
The Architect also is a departure from the conceptual War Games and Ill Insanity‘s (Rob, DJ Precision, DJ Total Eclipse, Dashah) Ground Xero. There’s a tangible classical music influence here, with the former X-ecutioner at once playing the role of conductor and orchestra. It might sound ambitious, but it works. Breez breaks it down on “Principio”: The art form elevated/ the next level of turntablism and innovators.
Two songs anchor The Architect: “Rabia” and “Lower Level.” Both are deconstructed into three movements, and both boast the maturity and texture of a symphony. Again – ambitious, but rewarding. On “Rabia,” soaring strings are met with frenetic percussion for an invigorating opening movement; those drums are later minced by Rob, as are the violins and eery organs. “Lower Level” begins with cut-and-sewn phrases from the inimitable Chuck D over a bed of dank, dusty drums; listen to the guitar as it’s double-time scratched and transformed.
Horns take the lead on the second movement, with Kool Keith telling us “As the record just turns, you learn, plus burn.” Cascading keys and plodding drums take you out on the last movement.
“Sound the Horn,” with its “Rocket in the Pocket” break foundation, and the combative anthem (M.O.P. phrases and all) “Spartacus” are just two more in a series of stellar tracks. Breez Evahflowin rounds it out on “Ultimo,” and you feel like you’ve come full circle, like you’re ready to get up from your seat in the theater, eager to discuss the Hitchcock film you’ve just listened to.
The Architect not only is Rob Swift’s best work, it’s a remarkable achievement of musicianship.