Published Aug 04, 2017Pharma is Alex Koenig's debut outing for the Orange Milk label, the culmination of a steady stream of hallucinatory releases that seem to originate in the early 2000s. Somehow associated with the much-maligned vapourwave genre, the producer's singular brand of genre-hopping plunderphonics has been sourced from the entirety of the zeitgeist, featuring a dizzying array of samples lifted from movies, video games, television shows, commercials, PSAs, radio shows, anime, popular songs and much, much more. Pharma takes many of the signature tropes that Koenig himself developed and ventures into even further sonic extremes, with a sample count that must be in the tens of thousands.
Leading off with a quote from Val Kilmer's pot-smoking character from The Island of Dr. Moreau, this double cassette quickly sets Koenig's listeners up for a chaotic ride through his memory banks, rocketing into an uncanny orbit as "NΞ1✪NΞ1" lurches into the mix, surfing haphazardly on the vocal and rhythm from Yello's "Oh Yeah." Fun and chaos ensue; within that track alone, Pac-Man dies a horrible death, Alan Ruck and Sandra Bullock discuss Los Angeles, a damaged En Vogue sample encourages folks to "free your mind," a report of the Iranian hostage crisis is delivered and Tony the Tiger makes a cameo.
The zaniness continues for two-thirds of Pharma, which one might call the musical equivalent of a William S. Burroughs novel. Musical genres as diverse as new jack swing, UK garage, drum & bass, big beat, lounge, exotica, soul, hip-hop, modern pop and ambient are all represented in some form or another, usually chopped and screwed into a barely recognizable slurry of sound. Of course, drug references are front and centre: there's probably not a single anti-drug PSA omitted from the 26 high-octane tracks presented, and Cheech and Chong are in there too, hiding behind a thick cloud of bong smoke.
It's virtually impossible to describe the sheer volume of references — both to high and low culture — that are scattered across Pharma; it's an album that must be heard to be believed. (Orange Milk)