Lo-Fi Hip-Hop? That really seems the best way to describe Gonjasufi’s debut album, A Sufi and A Killer, presumably titled as such because of left field producer the Gaslight Killer’s large contribution to the beats (the rest provided by Flying Lotus and Mainframe). Gonjasufi (born Sumach Ecks) brings an impossibly broad variety of influences to the table, with tons to digest from soul and doo-wop to dubstep, world, and ambient, all prcoessed through a low, crackling psychedelia. It’s a truly unique experience, and while I’m hardly a vinyl enthusiast, it’s one of those few albums which leaves me wondering how it would sound in the format.
With the exception of She Gone, which is by far the most immediately accessible song here, and the Mainframe produced Candylane and Holidays (the former giving a clean, pure disco vibe that barely fits in with the other tracks), A Sufi and a Killer is unified by a charmingly muddled and almost dirty sound. The production almost buries Ecks’ voice at times, as it is so understated and frail, and the roughness blends so easily into the soundscapes, but he still carries quite a presence nonetheless. His weathered vocals give an added abrasiveness to even the poppiest moments – particularly She Gone, which has an insulated early beatles-esque quality to it that gets ravaged by Ecks’ distorted wails. He demolishes another sixties trademark in the following SuzieQ, skewering Fogerty styled pop rock with a heavily fuzzed out garage sound and a rapid, frantic flow.
Kowboyz and Indians and Duet serve as wonderful send-ups of Indian pop and funk, respectively. Duet is based in a simple funk rhythm slowed down and distorted, with a synthesizer weaving its way through each measure. Kowboyz nearly drowns Ecks with a loop of Indian singing, resulting in a track so delightfully bizarre that it’s worth blaring even if just to get people to wonder what the hell you’re listening to. The Eastern influence is also apparent in the sitar and worldy percussion of Klowds, which, with its deliberately grainy production, actually sounds like something from the sixties, or in the very least a unique take on a Ravi Shankar song. The strange echo-filled ending leads into Ageing, an introspective blues and western sounding track with Ecks giving the already fantastic vocal melody a bluesy wail
Some songs seem to embrace a bit of camp, as well. Stardustin’ and Change seem almost as if they would be at home on the soundtrack to a seventies blaxploitation flick, while DedNd and the main hook from I’ve Given belongs in an old fashioned horror trailer. But while the whole of Sufi and a Killer is incredibly diverse, the deliberately lo-fi production along with Ecks’ ragged voice, with his almost equally diverse delivery, keeps things together. This is textbook trip-out music, and the hour long running time breezes by. It might feel for longer though, if you’ve dropped enough shrooms… not that that would be a bad thing, of course.
Rarely is an album bursting with so many ideas, yet so wonderfully cohesive. Gonjasufi and the Gaslamp Killer have created something more unique than just about anything that has surfaced from the underground hip-hop scene in the last decade, and produced a near-perfect amalgam of a staggering amount of genres, many of which seem completely unrelated. Definitely a record you should hear at least once.