Monday, January 23, 2012

Album Review: Gonjasufi - MU.ZZ.LE

Album Rating: B
Gonjasufi (aka Sumach Ecks) has risen to the top in a considerably short time. Presenting us with his left-field entry album A Sufi and a Killer, Gonjasufi immediately found a sound that was all at once challenging and accessible. Splicing wispy, ethereal elements with his grimy vocals, Gonjasufi nestled into a cultural medium and exercised the dichotomy between restraint and release. Speaking of the title of his debut, Gonjasufi said, “The Sufi side of life has helped me with my killer side so I try not to attach myself to any label. There's a Sufi and a killer in everybody, man.” And that sentiment is apparent all throughout said album, specifically in the contrast between the more jaded, emotionally driven tracks (“She Gone”) and the happier moods set (“Klowds”). Choosing to produce his new album on his own (without the talents of LA producer Gaslamp Killer), MU.ZZ.LE takes a considerably different direction and focuses more on mood (on the surface, at least).

Whereas A Sufi and a Killer’s smoggy aesthetic, drugged-out ‘60s psychedelia, and hip-hop blend made it one of 2010’s most eclectic works, MU.ZZ.LE comes across as a lot rougher around the edges, focusing more on brooding synthesizers and lethargic vocals. Gonjasufi’s voice lacks the flair of previous releases and it’s buried under ambiance and electronics, but what he lacks in oomph he certainly makes up for with atmosphere. Here, Gonjasufi champions thick, treble-heavy beats and dials down the emotional impact of his voice, portraying himself as somewhat indifferent. Some might mistakenly think it’s lacking in passion, but Gonjasufi is harboring anger under this collage of different sounds. It’s easy to miss, given that most of the vocals here are veiled by everything happening around them, but Gonjasufi presents us with a social commentary about the grotesque nature of man, hones in on self-loathing, and ruminates (“The Blame”): “Children fucking blow up malls/Grown men fucking blow-up dolls/I’m not the perfect man, and I never claimed to be/ I’ve done some things in my time and even I’m ashmed of me”.

One would be excused for initially writing MU.ZZ.LE off as an aimless mess (and it sort of is at points), but subsequent listens reveal neat little quirks, showing a more nuanced record than some will initially give it credit for. “White Picket Fence” is a laid-back lounge number whose atmosphere nearly evokes a sound similar to Pink Floyd (think Dark Side of the Moon), “Nickels and Dimes” opens with candor as children’s laughter can be heard faintly in the background, and “Blaksuit” is sort of nostalgic with its crisp audio sound, seeming as though it’s being spun on vinyl. The production value is exceptional on certain tracks, but elsewhere it fails to entice.

For all its enjoyable moments (the album is only 25 minutes long) there are some meandering, pointless tracks. Being almost half the time of its older brother, MU.ZZ.LE (somehow) seems a lot less focused and ends up being notably disjointed. Most recognizably, “Rubberband,” "Timeout," and “Sniffin’” feel like filler tracks - the latter in particular is a disappointing and awkward conclusion to the alum, and outside of that the songs feel underdeveloped; even the best tracks are too fleeting. Still, MU.ZZ.LE brings with it an exciting new direction for Gonjasufi and manages to still feel familiar to fans. Even the drug-induced laments of A Sufi and a Killer are here (“Venom”). Looking beyond its few faults, MU.ZZ.LE is an album that has something for everyone, and it’s easy to get lost in its dreamy-like atmosphere.


Track List:
1. White Picket Fence
2. Feedin' Birds
3. Nikels And Dimes
4. Rubberband
5. Venom
6. Timeout
7. Skin
8. The Blame
9. Blaksuit
10. Sniffin'

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