Staring so aimlessly, it’s so plain to see

(Or perhaps not…)

Terrific, truly out of the ordinary record downloaded from Emusic this week, one which has occupied the car stereo since Tuesday, and shows no signs of relinquishing its grasp…

Gonjasufi

I value songwriting skills, I like a good lyric and whilst not being a musician I still appreciate clever, skilful or innovative musicianship. Having said that (and tried to make myself sound like a semi-serious muso), I’ll have to admit that I’m a complete sucker for the effects and the general feel of a record. I often don’t pay enough attention to the words in a record because I’m enjoying the background or the clever stuff going on around the centre.

January’s Gonjasufi record, MU.ZZ.LE, is right up my alley, absolutely dripping with dubs, samples and all sorts of knob-twiddling wizardry. I am transfixed by it. It’s probably just as well, because the songwriting is well-obscure, the lyrics are at times muffled and distorted beyond understanding and I’m willing to bet there weren’t too many musicians in the studio during the recordings.

By all accounts Gonjasufi is a Mexican/Ethiopian Californian called Sumach Ecks. He is simultaneously a rapper / DJ / yoga teacher (a well-trodden path, I’m sure), who has worked with a number of Hip Hop acts, outside of my area of “expertise”, and is currently signed to Warp records. You can see his distinctive yet distorted features on the cover art, looking a lot like a photo cut from the cover of Exile onMain Street.

Of his first record, A Sufi and A Killer, (next on my list once my Emusic downloads have refreshed), he’s said “I didn’t want it to be too easy for the listener. I wanted it to hurt a little bit. I wanted it to get into a spot in the head that hasn’t been hit” From the briefest of listens to MU.ZZ.LE, you’d concede he’s managed that…

He’s got a dry growly voice that gasps and breaks between lines, making you feel as if he’s struggling to get it out almost as much as you are to catch it all. Behind him he uses great swashes of buckling, creaky sounds, filled out by fluctuating organ sounds and mangled samples. Dominating it all is a weary, threshing, agricultural rhythm section that he uses to maximum effect (presumably to get into that spot in the head). On top of all this, is the constant, crackling interference of speakers turned up too loud and equipment pushed too far.

There’s also a general (and sometimes epic) sixties feel to the record, which is part homemade jiggery-pokery with its roots in a Joe Meek studio and part garage punk goofy experimentalism. As the record rolls on, tracks often run into the next and appear to borrow heavily from each other, but by the end what was never a tightly knit tapestry has well and truly unraveled (and in spectacular fashion). It’s confusing, compelling fare.

Perhaps surprisingly, there’s not a lot of real video of Gonjasufi out there, even from Warp, but you can at least hear the guy here:

You can also download “Nikels and Dimes” from the Gonjasufi site. Looking forward to hearing the first record now…

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