Every once in a while an album comes along that absolutely cannot be pinned down. These are thrilling and thought provoking listens. They are difficult to review because they invite no comparisons or sensible descriptions. They are albums that have to be carefully listened to and absorbed, not read about in a review.
The best description of Gonjasufi's voice may have come from Flying Lotus, who gave the new Warp artist a high-profile appearance on Los Angeles deep cut "Testament". FlyLo called it "timeless, incredible filth," which reads more laudatory than descriptive, but there's something about that voice that escapes simple specifics. On "Testament", Gonajsufi lost himself in the track's wispy, ghostlike soul, but on earlier self-pressed records like Dead Midget on Stilts (Crutches) and Flamingo Gimpp (released under the name Sumach), his voice had a gruff, restless quality.
Like if J. Dilla produced George Clinton after visiting with the Dalai Lama, or if Dan the Automator recorded Cody Chesnutt after the two shared a plate of magic mushrooms, A Sufi and a Killer is a weird, ‘60s-rooted, psychedelic hip-hop trip. Sumach Ecks (aka Gonjasufi) sings quietly in his old-man croak over record crackles, McCartney-esque basslines, Farfisa organs, spacy delays, chopped guitars, Middle Eastern scales, and beats by the Gaslamp Killer, Mainframe, and Flying Lotus.
Gonjasufi – aka California's Sumach Ecks – sounds like a human radio that's stuck between stations. Songs on his debut LP crackle in and out of life and dance between genres: one minute he's croaking out-of-frequency soul, the next it's a Big Boi-style hip-hop rundown. It's all over the place, but thrillingly so. The yoga-teacher/Flying Lotus collaborator might make a shtick out of mixing the meditative nature of Sufism and a certain street swagger, but it's the songs that define him.
In a recent interview with Pitchfork, LA’s Sumach Ecks revealed a little about his headspace during the making of A Sufi And A Killer: “I didn't want it to be too easy for the listener. I wanted it to hurt a little bit. I wanted it to get into a spot in the head that hasn't been hit.” It’s an apt and succinct summary of his debut album’s borderline sadistic tendency to flit in the opposite direction of anything resembling a ‘typical’ Gonjasufi song.
Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder is about to be off to a tremendous start if the production on A Sufi and a Killer is any indication. While only one beat features the stylings of label head Flying Lotus, primary psych-rock/hip-hop DJ Gaslamp Killer more than picks up the slack with a style equally suitable for Sumach Valentine, aka GonjaSufi. “Ancestors” previews Flying Lotus’ own upcoming LP Cosmogramma, and Sufi sounds incredible in there, haunted and full of some new, distorted form of soul.
A terrific, trippy adventure with something for every curious pop fan. Chris Parkin 2010 With a sonic sprawl that’s just as epic and compelling as his back story, there’s an undeniable parallel between the real, oxygen-breathing world inhabited by Warp’s latest maverick, Sumach Ecks, and the imaginary one he explores in his music. On Planet Earth he’s a reformed drug addict turned yoga teacher; a student of spirituality who flits between the badlands of the Mojave Desert and LA with his family.
Resting on top of a resilient establishment where influences from Middle-Eastern sounds, to re-imagined hip-hop, to bustling old-sounding records lay, is an enigmatic singer/rapper, Gonjasufi. Properly known as Sumach Ecks, the distinctive singer had been making music for 20 years on his own, before realizing the means to create a full-length debut. Talented and beguiling, the singer’s music is a tale of genuinely open words and whether he’s singing about giving it his all, renouncing her name after she’s left, or even envisioning life as a sheep, there is an unmistakable magnificence about A Sufi and a Killer and thus, it is a superb release in every sense of the word: a masterpiece, if you will.