The Architect is a dense, moody record, piled high with analog hiss and dark, urgent orchestral swirls. It takes a deliberate step back from the harsh sonic lines drawn by most modern hip-hop records and plunges back into the muddy vinyl depths, drawing out refreshing dynamic expanses and begging to be played loud. It rewards the added volume, too — you’ll hear the strings and scratches you’re looking for at any level, but crank the volume, and you’re sucked into a cavernous world of odd percussion, vintage digital sound effects, and layers of skittering, indescribable noise. It ain’t a pop record. But is it art? Absolutely.
This isn’t a reach-out-and-grab-you kind of album; I went in eager to hear it, and it still took me quite a few listens to really absorb and appreciate everything Swift’s doing here. For that reason — as well as the fact that it’s coming out on Ipecac, the label run by Mike Patton, who’s great at putting out “great on paper” projects that ultimately kinda disappoint — I think more than a few listeners will be inclined to dismiss The Architect as a promising gimmick that doesn’t really deliver. Be patient, though, and these songs will deliver; in fact, I’d wager this is going to be one of the most purely artistic albums we’ll hear in any genre all year. Miss it at your own peril.