Review: Gonjasufi – MU.ZZ.LE

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Gonjasufi’s 2010 LP A Sufi and a Killer set itself apart from any other self-styled ‘electronic’ record from that year, mostly because of his amazing voice. Pitched somewhere between the anguished ghost of a long-dead Delta bluesman and the sound of an injured dog, when paired with masterful, smoky production from The Gaslamp Killer it led to a sprawling patchwork quilt of an album, encompassing a huge stylistic range, from Grateful Dead-style guitar noodling to freeform instrumental hip-hop of the Flying Lotus school.

On MU.ZZ.LE, a 25 minute ‘mini-LP’, Gonjasufi narrows his focus and tones down some of the more aggressive elements of A Sufi, without losing anything in intensity. The layers of scuzz and distortion are still present over his skewed instrumental samples, carpet-bombed beats and gravel-wouldn’t-melt vocals, but the tempo and atmosphere have been taken down to a slower, more seductive pace. Opener ‘White Picket Fence’ immediately throws us into an echoey sludge of decomposed guitar and languid drums reminiscent of early Portishead if they were lost in the Sahara desert, rather than in a port town just outside Bristol. Even on more beat-heavy tracks such as ‘Nickels and Dimes’ and ‘Skin’, the commitment to injecting these tracks with a queasy, claustrophobic unease beyond a standard B-boy aesthetic is admirable. ‘I’ve done some things in my time / Even I’m ashamed of me,’ he croons softly on ‘The Blame’, and rather than an empty platitude, his pained, worn near-whisper sounds like he means it.

MU.ZZ.LE isn’t perfect, however – taken by itself, closing track ‘Sniffin’ is an underwhelming end, sounding more like a doodle to test out distortion effects used sparingly and evocatively elsewhere. However, MU.ZZ.LE is best taken in as a whole. As its compacted and tightly structured length weaves seamlessly from one track to the next, you could almost be listening to an ancient mystic, rather than one of the most idiosyncratic modern musicians going.

Gonjasufi’s 2010 LP A Sufi and a Killer set itself apart from any other self-styled ‘electronic’ record from that year, mostly because of his amazing voice. Pitched somewhere between the anguished ghost of a long-dead Delta bluesman and the sound of an injured dog, when paired with masterful, smoky production from The Gaslamp Killer it led to a sprawling patchwork quilt of an album, encompassing a huge stylistic range, from Grateful Dead-style guitar noodling to freeform instrumental hip-hop of the Flying Lotus school.
On MU.ZZ.LE, a 25 minute ‘mini-LP’, Gonjasufi narrows his focus and tones down some of the more aggressive elements of A Sufi, without losing anything in intensity. The layers of scuzz and distortion are still present over his skewed instrumental samples, carpet-bombed beats and gravel-wouldn’t-melt vocals, but the tempo and atmosphere have been taken down to a slower, more seductive pace. Opener ‘White Picket Fence’ immediately throws us into an echoey sludge of decomposed guitar and languid drums reminiscent of early Portishead if they were lost in the Sahara desert, rather than in a port town just outside Bristol. Even on more beat-heavy tracks such as ‘Nickels and Dimes’ and ‘Skin’, the commitment to injecting these tracks with a queasy, claustrophobic unease beyond a standard B-boy aesthetic is admirable. ‘I’ve done some things in my time / Even I’m ashamed of me,’ he croons softly on ‘The Blame’, and rather than an empty platitude, his pained, worn near-whisper sounds like he means it.
MU.ZZ.LE isn’t perfect, however – taken by itself, closing track ‘Sniffin’’ is an underwhelming end, sounding more like a doodle to test out distortion effects used sparingly and evocatively elsewhere. However, MU.ZZ.LE is best taken in as a whole. As its compacted and tightly structured length weaves seamlessly from one track to the next, you could almost be listening to an ancient mystic, rather than one of the most idiosyncratic modern musicians going.

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