Review Summary: “timeless, incredible filth”
On his head the greasiest dreadlocks you can imagine, Sumach Valentine’s aka Gonjasufi’s appearance is striking enough. But an even bigger thing he has going for him is his voice: raspy, rusty, rattling, honest - producer Flying Lotus called it “timeless, incredible filth”. In combination with the amazingly fucked up production of Los Angeles based hip-hop producer The Gaslamp Killer, tearing apart his baritone even more, he sounds like a prophet who has risen from the mud of the streets. And well, according to his biography that ain’t that
wrong at all. Long before finding the Islamic Sufism, he lived down and out on the streets of Los Angeles. A homeless person who became a yoga teacher with wife and children, just one of many contrasts you stumble upon when digging through this man’s work.
“A Sufi and a Killer” is his debut album, after previously being featured on Flying Lotus’ great “Los Angeles”. Another excellent addition to the increasingly varying catalogue of IDM-pioneers Warp, this is an odd masterpiece. The influences are all over the place, from experimental hip-hop to blues to funk to world music to insane psychedelia, put into nineteen short and mostly amazing lo-fi nuggets, reeking of sandstorms, dry heat and drug orgies. After a one-minute intro that sounds a bit like its title (Bharatanatyam)
the album unleashes one of the coolest three-track-openings you can imagine: Kobwebz
furiously fuses eastern sounding guitars and layers of noise with hip-hop beats while Gonjasufi’s heavily distorted voice fades in and out. The Flying Lotus-produced Ancestors
one-ups the opener with its catchy claps, deep bass and sitars. And then, Sheep
, probably the best track on the album, goes from a sparse guitar to a sweet female voice laying down some warm, soulful na-na-na-naas to a Caribbean sounding groove while Gonjasufi’s lyrics transform from “I wish I was one of your sheep only because I wouldn’t have to kill to eat”
to “I am a lion, babe, feeding of the sheep that graze”
From there on “A Sufi and a Killer” takes us on a wild ride through styles and ideas, one funnier and more original than the other, all having in common only The Gaslamp Killer’s filthy, sizzling production (all but four tracks produced by Mainframe, that is) and Gonjasufi’s even rougher voice. The infectious She Gone.
sounds like something The Beatles could’ve done had they been a lo-fi garage band. Kowboyz&Indians
brings a unique psychedelic world music approach to hip-hop, just like Klowds
is a sweet bluesy love song, Stardustin’
are short but heavy eruption of something that is almost hard rock, Change
is reminiscent of a 60s soul number and the productions of Advice
set a fantastical backdrop for some of Gonjasufi’s more intimate musings. And finally the “hidden” bonus track has a wonderful psychedelic rock vibe to it sounding a lot like The Jimi Hendrix Experience on even more drugs, ending the album in a hugely satisfying way.
So “A Sufi and a Killer” has tons of material speaking for it, but alas of the nineteen tracks, not every one is a winner. The incorporation of the Mainframe-produced “Candylane / Holidays”
single feels oddly out of place with its clean disco funk among all the filth and dirt and some tracks like I’ve Given
or Love of Reign
wouldn’t be missed if cut. But those are minor nitpickings, considering the amount of songs on this album, Gonjasufi has an incredible hit rate and it’s easy to dismiss the occasional short downer among so many successful experiments. In a year in which hip-hop seems to stay pretty much out of sight so far, “A Sufi and a Killer” gives it a new impulse into a completely unforeseen direction, hopping back and forth across genre boundaries with ease and joy.