Gangrene is a duo comprised of California-based hip-hop producer/rappers Oh No and The Alchemist. The Alchemist has a deep history with rappers from both the east coast – Mobb Deep, Cormega, and Pharoahe Monch – and from the west coast –Dilated Peoples, Fashawn, Soul Assassins – while Oh No has kept the underground independent scene on lockdown.
Both producers’ styles create combinations of lo-fi sound, haziness, and psychedelics that had yet to be properly executed in hip-hop. Since both artists are extremely accomplished, the listener should expect a positively mind-numbing experience. Vodka and Ayahuasca is the follow-up to the group’s excellent debut album Gutter Water and provides satisfactory improvements.
The introduction establishes the album’s drug and alcohol-induced mood. A mix of vocal samples, conversations and 70s rock riffs provide a wonky and almost comedic foundation, flowing directly into an intimidating track with the fitting title of “Gladiator Music,” which features underground rapper legend Kool G Rap.
The following track is laced with a fat gurgling bass line and melodic vocal sample that shine throughout. “Drink Up” and “Auralac Bags” describe the methods used to arrive at the title track. By this time, the listener has left reality and is making their way down the uncharted path that is the unconscious.
Psychedelic guitars, horns, organs, and pianos are used to construct different inversions of minor chords, while vocal and ambient effects further contribute to the hazy and confused atmosphere.
There are short interludes between every track featuring characters with limited sobriety. The constant hard left and right panning of these sections creates an illusion of queasy imbalance and, as the album goes on, completes the idea of being in a substance-induced state.
“The Groove” represents either the beginning of a return to reality or the attainment of true consciousness – perhaps both. Using Rick Wakeman’s Catherine of Aragon for source material, the minor melodies are met with major tones and create a hopeful feeling that carries through the remainder of the album.
Vodka and Ayahuasca is one of the most artistically-crafted and well thought-out albums I have heard in quite some time. The listening was a true experience.