Presumably based off the strength of “Testament“, his brilliant vocal turn on FlyLo’s 2008 beat-odyssey Los Angeles, Gonjasufi signed with legendary UK imprint Warp Records and released his debut, A Sufi and a Killer, in 2010. With production help from fellow San Diego resident The Gaslamp Killer, Flying Lotus, and Mainframe, Sufi was a jagged slab of feral, Eastern-tinged psychedelia marked by Gonjasufi’s unearthly croon, somewhere between ragged, world-worn bluesman and extraterrestrial shaman, which was succinctly described by Lotus as “timeless, incredible filth.” The LP showcased Gonjasufi’s wide array of talents, namely his surprisingly incisive lyrics, especially on standouts “Ancestors” and the rousing space ballad “Sheep”. Since his debut, Gonjasufi has been relatively quiet, aside from The Ninth Inning, a free EP he dropped online last month.
MU.ZZ.LE, then, comes as a solid second effort from the San Diego native. Self-recorded and produced at his home in the Mojave desert, it’s imbued with the same fierce spirit present on previous efforts, though Gonjasufi’s curiously prismatic musical identity shines through in his detached, insular production. Where The GLK’s larger than life Bollywood samples set the tone for A Sufi and a Killer‘s widescreen sprawl, lonely organs and string samples dot MU.ZZ.LE‘s dense, arid landscape, lending it a distinctly fresh air. Where Sufi was heavy on Stooges-y fuzz freakouts and huge string-laden epics, MU.ZZ.LE is a detached and sullen EP, the sort of record that would’ve made much more sense had it come before its big, feature-heavy predecessor.
Without The GLK’s deft production or a massive FlyLo collab to offset it, the defiantly abrasive nature of Gonjasufi’s songwriting makes for a needlessly capricious and difficult listen on MU.ZZ.LE. The highlights, though, are fantastic, with tracks like “Nikels and Dimes” and “Venom” hitting hard with a renewed bite, playing at times like a collection of long-lost Horace Andy/Massive Attack sessions or perhaps a (not too far-fetched) collaboration between the trip-hop luminaries and Tom Waits. Here’s hoping the next time Gonjasufi hits the studio, it’s not alone.
Essential Tracks: “Nikels and Dimes”, “Pickin’ Birds”, and “Venom”