Release Date: Aug 19, 2016
Record label: Warp
Genre(s): Electronic, Rap, Electronica, Pop/Rock, Left-Field Hip-Hop
Ever since A Sufi and a Killer sent his scarred wail out into a wider world, Gonjasufi’s future has seemed pretty open-ended. What path would his hip-hop-influenced psych take? Subsequent releases—especially 2012’s MU.ZZ.LE—veered closer to a series of confrontational wake-up calls than the inner voyage of the mind than “psychedelia” typically suggests. Jay Z’s “Nickels and Dimes” might have lifted the hook from the Gonjasufi cut of the (almost) same name, but its mournfully introspective spirit was something too bare-nerved to co-opt, the catharsis of MU.ZZ.LE pared it down to just the “psych-” and laid bare just how many far more unsettling things could be attached to it as a suffix.
Calluses form on parts of the body that are subjected to stress, labour or fracture. They're marks of experience and trauma, mounds of skin made thicker and harder to protect the softer flesh underneath. American artist Sumach Ecks is surely familiar with calluses, both physical and emotional, and his voice seems callused, too. It's a pained, weathered cry, the sound of a life of ups and downs.That raspy singing has been Ecks' calling card since he discovered it around 2009.
Welcome to Callus, a barren land of cutthroat honesty and ominous terrain. Gonjasufi's latest is an album of pain and suffering, blinding like the sun and scorched like the desert.Perhaps it's because it was recorded between Gonjasufi's home in the California badlands and the even less forgiving, sin-ridden land of Las Vegas, or maybe it was the time leading up to album's four-year recording process that inspired its arid nature as much as the locations in which it was recorded. After being allegedly swindled by PR company Elastic on his European tour a few years ago, Gonjasufi returned home broke, distraught and understandably fuming at his prospects.
Arriving six years after his widely acclaimed debut A Sufi and a Killer and four years after mini-album MU.ZZ.LE, Callus is the third studio album from eclectic, shamanic vocalist/producer Gonjasufi (Sumach Ecks). As with his previous releases, the album is a heady, incredibly trippy blend of psychedelic rock, dub echo, Afro-punk, and severely bugged-out hip-hop, spearheaded by his own unmistakable vocals. While his debut was entirely produced by the Gaslamp Killer, Mainframe, and Flying Lotus, his subsequent works have seen him drift away from the California beat scene.
Callus is not an album for the faint-hearted. Clocking in at a mammoth 19 tracks, the latest release from Sumach Ecks, better known as Gonjasufi, explores more of the fuzzy, hallucinogenic head-nod music for which the American vocalist, DJ, producer, actor and yoga teacher is renowned. From the industrial heft of opening track The Maker, with its breathy, distorted vocals, to the all-consuming riffs that drive the concise slow burner The Kill, then on to the eerie synth-led epic Shakin Parasites, Callus is a hulking beast of a record.
The American yoga teacher and producer returns after four years with his third studio album. The follow-up to Mu.zz.le, Callus is decidedly darker than its predecessor, assaulting the ears with endless hazy vocals, wailing synths and moody bass guitar improvisations from former Cure member Pearl Thompson. With the exception of Krishna Punk and Devils, the album lacks drive, and at 19 tracks it’s easy to lose focus while listening.
Much has happened in the six years since Gonjasufi’s Warp debut. Civil unrest, civil rights violations and open murder have become the norm. We have a major political party candidate running on a platform of hate, intolerance and wanton ignorance. Callus, his latest release for Warp, reflects this cultural shift to the extreme.
In an interview with Dazed magazine, Sumach Ecks, a.k.a. Gonjasufi, claimed he learned “the importance of stillness” through practicing yoga. On his third album, Callus, that stillness is being encroached upon by a dualistic force outside of, but still very much a part of, himself. This war-hell ride besetting Gonjasufi is obviously supposed to be indicative of a cultural sickness.
Sumach Ecks, better known as American musician Gonjasufi, has spent the last four years working on the followup to his acclaimed 2012 album MU.ZZ.LE. Gone are the samples he usually mixes in and reworks in favour of a sound that is uniquely and distinctly his: Callus, instead, is an album he hopes “other people will one day sample themselves”. “It was exhausting making the record…it was probably the hardest piece of art I’ve had to work on” he says, and at an epic 19 tracks long, it’s perhaps no wonder.