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Armand Hammer - We Buy Diabetic Test Strips (Album Review)

Friday, 06 October 2023 Written by Tom Morgan

Billy Woods is on fire. His stellar solo releases, output as the head of Backwoodz Studioz and as one half of Armand Hammer prove that he is the most vital experimental rapper in the world right now.

That’s not to ignore the skills of his more verbally violent Armand Hammer partner, Elucid, whose solo work is equally impressive, but simply less relentless than Woods’ prolific output. The best of both worlds, though, comes via the medium of their work as a freeform, creatively restless duo.​ 

‘We Buy Diabetic Test Strips’ is the duo’s fifth album under the name and also their best — a complex and poignant work that will be seen on many album of the year lists come December.

Its brilliance knows no bounds. These 15 tracks are each built on bold and unusual beats, crafted by elite producers such as El-P, JPEGMAFIA and Kenny Segal, that pointedly eschew familiar structures or textural form.

The production is endlessly and startlingly original, existing and thriving at opposite polarities. The Gods Must Be Crazy oscillates with muscular intensity, while the beatless The Flexible Unreliability Of Time offers up a mesmerising expressionist sound collage.

Most jaw-dropping is the JPEGMAFIA-produced closer The Key Is Under The Mat. It fuses industrial reverberation with cosmic scale, wheezing like a mechanical godhead. It’s awe-inspiringly unique and one of the finest rap tracks of the year.

Woods and Elucid’s bars are as dark and thorny as ever, but the truly wondrous qualities of ‘We Buy Diabetic Test Strips’ lie in its sound design. This is music at its most abstract and emotionally charged. It will make your head spin.


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