Search The Line of Best Fit
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Armand Hammer craft their most beguiling work yet on We Buy Diabetic Test Strips

"We Buy Diabetic Test Strips"

Release date: 29 September 2023
Armand Hammer We Buy Diabetic Test Strips cover
28 September 2023, 09:00 Written by Noah Barker

Every syllable and phrase – even the most banal of details – is prophetic from Billy Woods' voice.

When backdropped by instrumentals underpinning his words with nihilism and fierce attention, Woods’ prophecies become biblical truth; when joined by the incisive, breathy bars of Elucid, they become stirring unreality.

Armand Hammer has, throughout their 10-year discography, slowly chipped away at song structure and abstraction in their already heady vein of rap. The songs of their most recent record Haram, produced by the legendary Alchemist, still clung to some modicum of structural decency, one which is fervently abandoned on We Buy Diabetic Test Strips. It is their most challenging and sumptuously rewarding project yet.

Like many abstract hip-hop records of late, the bookending phases of the record are peculiarly misplaced. While locked into an engrossing nightmarish daze, the first three tracks fail to mark themselves as a conclusive starting point, just as the final stretch feels dropped in the act of running away. Then again, these types of heady, underground records are not meant to be the standardized blockbuster cinema of Travis Scott’s Utopia; Elucid and Woods understand their work to be an action followed by the listeners’ pursuit, always a precarious step removed.

“When It Doesn’t Start with a Kiss” strikes just after the record has sleepily meandered its way into the listener’s view as if the duo were weeding out inattentive listeners before delivering on the product. The product itself is a stunning slew of hard-hitting psychedelics and feverish rapping, ramping up the pace like the police were called somewhere in between tracks three and four. “Trauma Mic” carries this forward momentum with a thrashing den of harsh noise and ingenious one-liners, “Missionary ‘cause I know God see us,” being a highlight.

“The Gods Must Be Crazy” and “Yall Can’t Stand Right Here” transition eclectic beats and sampling into the morose and despondent final leg of the record, one that expertly utilized features from Pink Siifu, Moor Mother, and Moneynicca of Soul Glo fame. Closer “The Key is Under the Mat” hums with distant industrial percussion and dissolving white noise, its subtle grandiosity providing a purposefully unclear picture left behind. It’s noticed like shattered glass on the floor of a crime scene, a crunch underfoot, and a lookup to see the perpetrators vanish.

This is a crime with a sense of humour and contention with reality, where Armand Hammer bow out to plot another score. As a complete body of work, it’s eclectic and begins how it ends: inconclusively. But as an entry into Armand Hammer’s growing canon of mastery, Test Strips is their headiest and most impressive work thus far.

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