Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Gonjasufi - A Sufi And A Killer [Warp]

Sometime FlyLo collaborator and man of mystery Gonjasufi releases his debut album on Warp, A Sufi And A Killer, next week. It's certainly not quite what initial impressions - advance listens to the largely electronic vibes of 'Ancestors' - suggested, switching manically between shrieking Mudhoney-fuzz and thoughtful Banhart desert-folk (and taking stops more or less everywhere else as well). But after several listens its several personalities begin to blur together, painting a picture of a contradictory but deeply intriguing character, and a record that becomes ever easier to get lost in.

"Ecks’ voice is a hugely versatile instrument, every bit as unique and distinctive as that of Bjork or Tom Waits, a dusty and dessicated thing as able to deliver softly lulling croon as mercurial howl. His default mode, if such a thing could be said to exist, is a vaguely unsettling, hoarse croak that falls somewhere between devotional chant and the mumbled nothings of insanity. He first lent the softer, honeyed end of his register to Flying Lotus’ ‘Testament’, elevating its status to the absolute highlight of the excellent Los Angeles album – a role he reprises here on the FlyLo-produced ‘Ancestors’. Cut from much the same cloth, Lotus’s production slouches along on a calmly psychedelic haze of plucked strings as Ecks summons the spirits of his distant past for inspiration and guidance. The overall effect is like the lucid plateau of a long trip, as strange and foreign elements rattling around just outside the limits of conscious perception lend an aura of tense unpredictability to proceedings. It’s a striking early highlight, and a zenith which later songs struggle to reach.

A Sufi And A Killer certainly isn’t the easiest album to fathom. The sheer volume of ideas packed into its hour long runtime is initially daunting, as are the transitions between each of its 19 tracks, which veer wildly from smooth and seamless to jarring. The sudden shift from the folksy stomp of ‘She Gone’ to the fuzzed out garage rock of ‘Suzie Q’ - itself a warped retake of The Stooges’ ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ – seems to take particular delight in knocking the listener out of any false sense of security. Not that it’s ever particularly easy to become lulled into the kind of hypnotic state the album promises during its greatest moments - ‘Ancestors’, ‘Kobwebz’s slowly snaking guitar line, or the nonsense desert grooves of ‘Kowboyz&Indians’. There’s always another twist waiting just out of earshot.

So perhaps surprisingly, repeated listens reveal startling depth, a concentrated core of spirituality and self-exploration that becomes increasingly evident as the many awkward segues become familiar. Over its entire length, A Sufi And A Killer offers a fascinating glimpse of a character continually in transition, an appropriate creation given the personal contradictions he seems to display during interviews."


Full review written for Drowned In Sound

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