Atomic Skunk, Alchemy

Rich Brodsky is cool. If you doubt me, just take a listen to his third Atomic Skunk release, Alchemy, and there won’t be any further questions. Alchemy blends world-music grooves, spacey ambient textures and atmospheric electronic touches to keep itself fresh and engaging over its seven tracks. The variety shows itself from the start. “Rhino” begins with nature sounds, then quietly twists itself up into an easy-moving groove riding on chimes that sound like a cross between a vibraphone and a kalimba. Beneath it all boils a heady mix of glitchy percussive elements. A great kick-off track. “Equinox” resonates with a strong and steamy Latin/gypsy vibe courtesy of Brodsky’s guitar, backed with percolating electronics. String sounds, like a half-muted electric violin, bring the melodic voice to this piece. “Serpent and Rose” is my favorite track on Alchemy, with calm sequencer lines arcing around a beautiful, wordless vocal sample that absolutely soars. Brodsky loads this one with plenty of drama and a narrative feel that demands repeat listens. “Sunwheel” opens with a mechanical grind that transforms itself into a funky rhythm. Drones and twinkling chimes fill the space. Brodsky slowly builds his way to a vaguely Middle Eastern feel, bringing in big, wavering chords to sing his song while the beat simply plies forth. “Lotusmud” starts off a bit on the dark side, then blossoms halfway through the track to become an uplifting piece coursing along on an airy flute melody. The beats go away on “Temple of Stars,” as Brodsky showcases his ambient side in a 23-minute deep-space drift out to the darker spots between galaxies. At times vaguely unsettling, at times spindrift-calm, it’s a fully immersive trip.

I’ve been avoiding writing track-by-track reviews, but the diversity at play on Alchemy demands breaking it down to its components. While all separate entities in theme and feel, they’re all absolutely integral pieces of the superb whole. There’s not a moment here that’s not engaging, intriguing and expertly crafted. It’s a disc that requires your attention because there’s so very much going on, moment to moment. This disc is getting a lot of attention in the ambient/electronic community, and with good reason. Listen, and remove all doubt.  Alchemy is a Hypnagogue Highly Recommended CD.

Available at the Atomic Skunk web site.

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