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A Sufi and A Killer
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In these recent heady days, hype spreads like digital swine-flu and new artists are subjected to the sea change of an entire career before ever developing their sound. So to exist outside of the spotlight and develop a sound at once ready for the masses online, yet rooted in the fierce individualism of artists past may seem somewhat of a quaint notion until you hear Gonjasufi. At the moment, he stands just outside the spotlight cast on his friends and collaborators Flying Lotus and The Gaslamp Killer, but the sonic brotherhood that exists is implicit rather than as similarities in sound. Drawing from unearthed strains of global psychedelia and merging it with a rejuvenated sense of hip-hop clarity currently distinct to the West Coast, Gonjasufi is more than just a songwriter, MC or performer. His debut album "A Sufi And A Killer" recalls moments in love as well as trading sinister threats with enemies, sometimes within the same song. Trading in both the murk of lo-fidelity vintage samples and the concentrated crispness of current West Coast production, "A Sufi And A Killer" is both a roadmap to the riches of the distant past and a signpost to the future.
With a sonic sprawl that’s just as epic and compelling as his back story, there’s an undeniable parallel between the real, oxygen-breathing world inhabited by Warp’s latest maverick, Sumach Ecks, and the imaginary one he explores in his music. On Planet Earth he’s a reformed drug addict turned yoga teacher; a student of spirituality who flits between the badlands of the Mojave Desert and LA with his family. On record, he’s just as open-minded.
Ecks is a freewheeling nomad who wanders wherever his creative impulse takes him – and A Sufi and a Killer sees him travelling further and wider than most. It’s a stunning, genre-transcending record that should appeal as much to fans of the esoteric, fuzzbox-psychedelia unearthed by Andy Votel and the Finders Keepers label (especially on his DedNd) as it will those fond of dubstep, the spliff-frazzled paranoia of trip hop, J Dilla’s vision of cerebral, emotionally rich hip hop, the head-in-the-clouds acid folk of Marc Bolan’s Tyrannosaurus Rex and dust-blown, voodoo-tweaked blues. And that’s just for starters.
Given the number of times Ecks has been called a 21st century mystic, thanks in part to mumbled-cum-rapped lyrics like “This is your only life so it’s only right to take your own advice...” (Advice), we’ve been given the impression that A Sufi and a Killer is almost shamanistic – a primal scream into the ether. That’s just too simplistic. What it is: a terrific, trippy adventure that sees Ecks (armed with shiny new tools and beats) travelling the same freaky-deaky space that another desert-dwelling weirdo, John Fahey, arpeggio-d and raga-d through all those years ago – a ghostly, moody, wyrd cosmos with an ever-changing landscape.
From the bizarre Bollywood collision of Kowboyz&Indians and the Middle Eastern Morricone-like march of I’ve Given, to Holidays, on which Ecks sounds like Pharrell just released from the loony bin, the underwater digi-funk of Candylane and the howling Suzie Q, there’s something for every curious pop fan in these 19 tracks. That Brainfeeder producers Flying Lotus and The Gaslamp Killer are involved, alongside LA beat masters Mainframe and AJDM, only adds to the appeal of this alluring and mystifying character. --Chris Parkin
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Top Customer Reviews
Musically I can't really compare it with anything else as I am not normally a fan of the trip-hop genre but this record defies categorisation (despite my attempts at doing so above!) and stands on it's own.
It's utterly absorbing but I wouldn't recommend you do anything important whilst listening to it as you won't be able to give the task your fullest attention. I still have half-painted walls as a result!
Born to a Mexican mother and an American-Ethiopian father and raised in a predominantly white neighbourhood in San Diego, Gonjasufi converted to Sufism following a life blighted by drug addiction. He became a yoga teacher and hooked up with a variety of experimental musicians and artists.
In terms of the eclecticism of his art, music probably doesn't get much more eclectic than 'A Sufi And A Killer'. This is a recording which is literally a conflagaration of a multitude of rare song samples (termed 'crate diggin').
Although the sound and style of the piece is arguably rooted in the DJ Shadow/Spooky tradition of sampling, it ultimately transcends them in terms of its diversity. The recording infuses everything from Turkish psych rock to Bollywood, free jazz, Jimi Hendrix and everything in between.
But the element in the overall sound which ultimately is its driving force, is a merging of the deranged blues of Howlin' Wolf, and Tom Waits and the powerhouse garage of the Stooges and MC5. Clearly, Conjasufi has a wide-ranging musical knowledge which he displays in the sound he creates. This makes a refreshing change from the vast majority of hip hop artists whose output is as bland as it is unimaginative.
Unlike the work of the majority of his contemporaries, Conjasufi is prepared to dig below the surface of the soul in order to reveal pain and anguish in a way that the blues in the early black music expressed the pain and frustrations of its generation.
The album was produced by another key figure in the LA scene, the Gaslamp Killer in tandem with Flying Lotus, who this year (2010) released an equally innovative album entitled 'Cosmogramma'.
This is certainly an eclectic album, Gaslamp holds everything together to create a wonderfully obscure sampledelic beat collage, Gonjasufi shows off his full earthy vocal range and it all somehow works. Songs haphazardly flit in and out between many styles and genres, whether its a croaky soul number, a straight-up hip-hop mashup, a grizzly punk swagger to a space-funk green-haze groove.
The album starts with the ragged raga of `Baratanatyam', merging seamlessly into the psych-rock `Kobwebz'. Flying Lotus adds a brilliant deep sitar driven groove to `Ancestors'. The fantastic `Cowboys and Indians' is a stoner riff overlaid with African harmonies and a sample of a middle eastern singer over Gonjasufi's frazzled vocals. Throw in some p-funk style grooves on `Change' and `Dust' before Gaslamp even manages to bring in some disco electro on `Candylane'. Some tracks are just pure Gonjasufi vocals over simple beats such as `Holidays'. The last third of the album is more of a proper psyche rock outing, especially on the superb `Dednd' and the 60's acid groove of `I've given'.
A fantastic groovy mess of an album.
It's an impossible record to categorise, as it flits between sounding like a 70's soul record, to another Warp electronic masterpiece, and takes in pretty much everything else along the way. I also love the guy's voice, which is really distinctive, and put a name to the guy I'd heard on a Flying Lotus track that I really liked.
I can't recommend this highly enough, it's a masterpiece. A word of warning, Please do be sure to buy this and not 'The Caliph's Tea Party', which is a slightly disappointing collection of remixes from this record.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I don't think i will be writing anything too different to what has already been mentioned here in the reviews, but this is an album that is really worth buying and having a listen... Read morePublished on 12 May 2011 by Mr. AJ Harrison
If you are after a record with rolling dub bass lines, open spaces and clarity this is not for you maybe. I thought, by his name, that there would be dub reggae influences but no. Read morePublished on 13 Feb. 2011 by Ryan
I came across this fella on YT thru a J Dilla series of vids, I think this lp will be a classic of its genre
though its genre is quite undefineable true art useually is. Read more
I was drawn to this through various reviews and through his link with Flying Lotus, not really knowing what to expect. Read morePublished on 21 July 2010 by d208j7