Onetime rapper with Masters of the Universe, singer-songwriter, yoga instructor and weed smoker extraordinaire, Gonjasufi re-introduced himself to listeners a couple years ago through some self-released recordings and “Testament,” featured on Flying Lotus’ Los Angeles. And on the strength of his oddly eerie and psychedelic soul style, Gonjasufi, born Sumach Ecks, landed a deal with electronic powerhouse Warp Records. And while Ecks took his sweet time committing any new material to tape once that deal was inked, thereby prompting Warp to ask why he hadn’t actually been working on anything, the eventual product of the dreadlocked troubadour’s labors, A Sufi and a Killer, is a wonderfully bizarre slice of husky croon, trippy soul and samples galore.
A curiously diverse stew of static-laced beats, exotic textures, funk, folk and everything in between, A Sufi and a Killer is a difficult album to pin down, merely because it flutters and floats between genres and sounds fast and frequently. With production from collaborator Gaslamp Killer (title make a little more sense now?), Gonjasufi hops from one odd-yet-intriguing sound to the next across the album’s 19 tracks. Most of them are concise, rarely surpassing four minutes, and more often well under three, yet from one track to the next, Ecks drops continually fun and off-kilter jams.
With so much going on throughout A Sufi and a Killer, sometimes it’s hard to make sense, exactly, of what Gonjasufi and Gaslamp Killer are doing, exactly. But it’s best not to try to decipher it and rather lay back and soak up the wide-ranging highlights, including the heavy soul sound of “Change,” the reverb-addled raga of “Kobwebz,” the acid rock bounce of “She Gone,” the electro sputter of “Holidays” and the fucked-up blues of “Ageing.”
Gonjasufi’s voice can take a little getting used to, for his scratchy croon is, frankly, quite strange. But that unusual delivery is exactly the perfect match for Gaslamp Killer’s fuzzy sonic excursions. Though Gonjasufi, on a basic level, is building songs from a familiar approach, it’s safe to say you’ve never heard anything quite like this before.
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Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.