Sufi’s Meditation

“MU.ZZ.LE” is a slab of forward-thinking psychedelic soul.

by Dylan Hester


Artist: Gonjasufi

Label: Warp Records

A native of San Diego, Gonjasufi is an experimental music producer whose lo-fi electronic work falls somewhere between the boundaries of glitch-hop and soul. He has collaborated with Flying Lotus, Alice Coltrane’s nephew, on the acclaimed “Los Angeles” album.

Born Sumach Echs, Gonjasufi teaches yoga and takes spiritual inspiration from Jimi Hendrix.Such is the cultural lineage in which Gonjasufi abides.

Gonjasufi’s debut album, 2010’s “A Sufi and a Killer” garnered considerable praise when it was released on Warp Records, the iconic UK electronic label. “MU.ZZ.LE,” his sophomore LP, is half the length and twice as focused as its predecessor.

For someone with the name and image that Gonjasufi maintains, “MU.ZZ.LE” is, at its heart, a surprisingly straightforward listen. In fact, the simple structure is one of the album’s strongest traits. It would be easy to justify cramming the disc with electronic segues, long meandering instrumentals, sound collages and other elements commonly found in these experimental realms.

But “MU.ZZ.LE,” for all its sonic adventurism, remains lean and focused on its goal: psychedelic soul and pop tunes. Its 10 songs, which tend to be about two minutes apiece, are each impeccably crafted so as not to waste a second of the listener’s time. The result is a 14-minute album that may just as well be called an EP.

At nearly four minutes, “Nikels and Dimes” is the longest song by a considerable margin and perhaps the closest thing to a pop single that Gonjasufi has produced thus far. His vocal work on the track is some of his strongest yet, sounding haunting and prophetic on top of the sprawling, smoked-out beat: “It all depends / How the story ends / Give to the blind / Your nickel and dime.”

The following track, “Rubberband,” begins without missing a beat and brings that tragic and beautiful mélange of sounds to Gonjasufi’s next plane. Distant, distorted backing vocals descend with aching croon. It’s short, but taken with the previous track, becomes an immense spiritual plea.

This distinct style of sublimely produced, outer-space soul didn’t exactly come out of nowhere. It’s clear to hear the impact of other like-minded musicians of recent years. The detailed, dystopian production of Burial’s headphone-dubstep masterpiece, “Untrue,” and Erykah Badu’s &undefined;00âÄô neo-soul opus, “New Amerykah Part One: Fourth World War,” are clear reference points.

Also present are similarities with Hype Williams. No, not the director of Kanye’s “All of the Lights” video; Hype Williams, the elusive lo-fi production duo. Their recent streak of short, enigmatic records have produced considerable underground acclaim. It’s a direct, musical manifestation of YouTube culture, and “MU.ZZ.LE” taps into this narrative as well.

As such, it is difficult to imagine hearing an album like this only a few years ago. In the same year that society began to truly understand the limitless creative possibilities that the internet provides, larger forces threatened to collapse it. Taken at face value, “MU.ZZ.LE” may be nothing more than a psychedelic blur of bizarre samples and dirty drum loops underneath the yearning, mumbling vocals of a dreadlocked yogi for half an hour. But it is nothing if not an emblem of our time.

3.5 / 4 stars