Gonjasufi: MU.ZZ.LE


MU.ZZ.LE. Unlike his debut album, 2010's A Sufi and a Killer, a sprawling collaborations with LA producer Gaslamp Killer, MU.ZZ.LE is entirely Gonjasufi's own, and it shows in its unrelenting concentration. The 10 songs together barely make 25 minutes and each one has been distilled to an essence. As before, it contains within what makes him angry with himself, with his 'life of sin' ; furious with the greedy, and those who divide to rule; fearful of God; and respectful of fate. It gives succour and offers another pause for thought to those who find living at times uneasy.

Gonjasufi and fellow San Diegan noise-break purveyor Psychopop have centered their production around a codeine-paced, heavy-headed swoon that still manages to bristle with an undercurrent of stress. Psychopop handles beats for four of the 10 cuts, and their half-speed wooziness is like the musical equivalent of the slow-motion running you might experience in an unsettling dream. The headswimming electric piano blues of "White Picket Fence" and the loping, pendulous guitar in "Feedin' Birds" set the pace, ethereal as it is, and get a surprising amount of pull from their downtempo floatiness.

But Gonjasufi's own production is just as steeped in dubbed-out, crumbly atmospherics. The bass in "Venom" glows and throbs, peppered with a jingling percussion timbre halfway between a tambourine and a handful of change. "Blaksuit" sounds like a vintage funk 45 flipped to 33, its twangy loop pacing back and forth like a half-finished thought. It is archetypal Gonjasufi, Nevada hip hop, lethargic guitar. And even when the snares pop, as they do on "Nikels and Dimes", they do so through a thick coating of resin and ash.

The words aren't always clear through the fog of reverb, though this might be by design, some statement on how the plain truth of honest words can be sometimes hard to understand. But the agitated sentiments remain clear, whether castigating against the abuse of privilege in "Nikels and Dimes" or straining to maintain an interpersonal connection on "Rubberband". When Sumach's wife April has a wraithlike torch-singer turn in the second half of "Feedin' Birds" and distantly doubles up his lead on "Skin", it's to act as a sweetly voiced counterpart to lyrics that allude to guilt, death, and a search for love. And when the funereal lo-fi new wave of "The Blame" emerges near the end of the 24 1/2-minute running length, it's the late peak of a record that wrings out a devastated man's crisis of consciousness. Ecks is once again as lyrically evocative as he is vocally idiosyncratic. He warns on 'Feedin' Birds' that there is no solution, and he cannot be counted upon. The female backing vocals on 'Skin' pile on a sense of psychic claustrophobia, nonchalant or disinterested. Do they echo his words back to him, or taunt him in their repetition?

MU.ZZ.LE's palette is muted, but not solely doom. Joy and clarity (mental and sonic) punctuate the murk. 'Nikels & Dimes' begins with a happy, giggling child, before skewering inequality with a blunt lucidity. 'The Blame' is sudden, surefooted (both in production and intent), its defiance borne of a crisis of faith. Crucially though, such 'positives' only heighten the sense of deep disquiet, they are fleeting counterpoints or quixotic self-delusions. The happy child soon leaves. The clarity is pure mania, a fantasy, doomed to slip away unfulfilled.

The album finishes by tumbling into 'Sniffin'' the most energetic, but least comprehensible track. We're left by turns ill at ease, sharing in joy, defiant and cowed. MU.ZZ.LE is a document of mania, claustrophobia, depression, fervent religiosity, crippling self-doubt, clarity and paranoia – as thrilling as it is troubling. It might be a transitional point on Gonjasufi's path and it shows just one face of an eclectic, multifaceted performer. But it's also that rare album that feels meditative and cathartic all at once.

White Picket Fence ||

Feedin' Birds ||

Nickels and Dimes ||

Rubberband ||

Venom ||

Timeout ||

Skin ||

The Blame ||

Blacksuit ||

Sniffin' ||

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