In the immortal words of a young Pete Doherty, “I subscribe to the Umberto Eco view that Noel Gallagher is a poet and Liam’s a town crier, and I’ve always seen that as a perfect combination.”
Collaborations between Earl Sweatshirt and The Alchemist tend to differ stylistically to the Gallagher brothers, and they are not in that pantheon of musical duos quite yet, but when it comes to perfect combinations, this pair are right up there.
A surprise album between them was, therefore, never going to be bad. It might have been somewhat predictable and similar – each artist has a pretty distinctive style – but even those accusations can’t be levelled at Voir Dire.
It’s a fascinating little project – both thought-provoking and goofy; confrontational and laid back – and after years of rumours of a mysterious mixtape existing and not being released, it’s almost worth celebrating the simple fact Voir Dire is here.
For now, you won’t be able to find it on the standard streaming sites, however. Instead, the project exists only on Gala Music, and can be found here.
Gala is a website and music streaming service that appears to host some NFT buying technology. Each of the songs on Voir Dire have different artworks, and as well as listening via Gala, you can become a collector of the songs and cover images. “It’s a world for music that empowers artists and fans by allowing them to actively participate in the music experience like never before,” their mission reads. Efforts to shake up and democratise the music industry should be applauded, and it’s commendable that two artists with the prominence of Earl and The Alchemist are choosing to not go down the monopolised streaming platform route. Whether this NFT-driven alternative is the answer, who knows.
Anyway, I digress. Voir Dire is 11-tracks of dense poetry from Earl Sweatshirt set across beats that time and again demonstrate why The Alchemist is held in the highest esteem. As a couples’ therapist or an inspiring American High School football coach might say: “Good teams bring out the best in each other”. This pair suit each other so well, Earl Sweatshirt’s heavy flow at home on lighter, string-led Alchemist beats, while Earl himself shows more range in tone and cadence than he has in the past.
The samples throughout Voir Dire are exquisite. The Alchemist just seems to find such magical little snippets, spoken word bookending songs and giving the album moments of lightness, sans-Earl. The wonderful voice of Vin Scully opens the project’s second second ‘Vin Skully’, one of its best.
It leads onto ‘Sentry’ which features a characteristically quality verse from MIKE, the album’s only guest appearance. ‘Sentry’ is the only song released on mainstream platforms for now. It is a special song, Earl sounding as exasperated as he does throughout Voir Dire in the opening verse, before a dreamlike sample ends the song.
‘Geb’ is another stand-out. An ethereal beat plays host to contrasting Earl verses, before the heaviness of ‘Dead Zone’ and the album’s outro ‘Free the Ruler’ – probably the song that most alludes to the legal term ‘Voir Dire’ as the album’s title, referring to the veracity of courtroom evidence.
It’s believed that the project will come to Spotify et al. in the coming weeks. Until then, the wait for ready Voir Dire listening needs to go on a little longer, but the album exists, is here, and is very, very good.