Release Date: Sep 18, 2012
Record label: Brainfeeder
Genre(s): Electronic, Experimental, Pop/Rock, Left-Field Hip-Hop
Gaslamp Killer has emerged as a producer who developed his charismatic notoriety by pushing his corner of bass music into a something resembling a close cousin of acid rock. His highest-profile production gig, Gonjasufi's 2010 album A Sufi and a Killer, was psychotropic hip-hop at its most elemental, stuff so gristly and eye-peeling-- and occasionally beautiful-- that it reset the parameters for what you could nod your head to (assuming you could still remember where it was located). Pick up that same year's Death Gate EP or jump back a year to his 2009 EP, My Troubled Mind, and you can hear that sound emerge from a mindstate reared on 1980s VHS horror, hippy-biker exploitation soundtracks and car-trunk g-funk, stuff that expanded on the Left Coast underground influence of '96-era Shadow and Automator into a red-lit grindhouse.
Breakthrough is being touted as the full-length debut of Los Angeles-based DJ and producer Gaslamp Killer, otherwise known as William Bensussen. This is true, assuming one doesn’t count the 2008 Finders Keepers compilation All Killer, on which his role was more curator than DJ. A lighthearted, breezy affair, All Killer nevertheless stands as the purest distillation of Bensussen’s international influences and his ability to incorporate them into some kind of whole, not always seamless.
To understand producer Gaslamp Killer is to understand the Brainfeeder imprint to which he’s signed. His label mates are an unusual bunch, and his boss — Los Angeles experimental composer Flying Lotus — tends to push the creative envelope with twitchy electronic music not suited for easy listening. Unlike some labels, Brainfeeder artists tend to produce what they want with striking resolve, the results of which are both fascinating and cryptic.
Willie Bensussen, AKA the Gaslamp Killer, is a Freak Brother made flesh. Hailing from southern California, he boasts a fabulous covering of fizzy hair and has a passion for mind-expanding music from both west and east (Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and 13th Floor Elevators). His previous output, most notably production on Gonjasufi's A Sufi and a Killer, has seen him graft those influences on to beat loops, a pattern he follows here on his solo debut.
Breakthrough, William Bensussen's first album as the Gaslamp Killer, provides more of the left-field beat psychedelia he offered through his 2009-2010 Brainfeeder EPs, his production work on Gonjasufi's A Sufi and a Killer, and all of his other collaborative work dating back to 2006's "Cadillac Steeze" (recorded with Blu under the name Bobby Johnson). Whipping through these mostly brief tracks, whether in order or at random, one gets the sense that Bensussen is everlastingly scatterbrained with a voracious musical appetite, regardless of origin, from east to west, whether it came from a Turkish opium den or a Midwestern U.S. garage.
As resident DJ at Low End Theory – a club night that’s helped to launch everyone who’s anyone onto LA’s neo-psychedelic beat scene – The Gaslamp Killer is superbly connected. So it’s no surprise that his debut album comes courtesy of Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label and is packed with guest slots from the city’s weirdbeat great and good, from Gonjasufi to Samiyam. It’s a shame, then, that this album will inevitably be judged by two standards – Gaslamp’s genre-busting ADDJ sets and the general innovative excellence of the Brainfeeder stable – and is found lacking in both.
Breakthrough is a challenge for listeners, and the producers that make up the growing California beats scene. The debut LP of Low End Theory co-founder The Gaslamp Killer isn’t aimed at the dance floor, but beats enthusiasts, the kind of folks that have headphones permanently affixed to their scalps. GLK may be a figure in Southern California, but Breakthrough arrives from 16th Century Europe, the smoky lounges of heroin-fueled free jazz, the rock halls of Turkey, and the producer’s own past as an avid turntablist.
A formidable and immersive debut from the Californian turntablist. Ian Roullier 2012 While Brainfeeder label boss Flying Lotus may currently be receiving all of the attention for his new album, Until the Quiet Comes, one of his charges has assembled a formidable debut album in the form of Breakthrough. A respected turntablist with a string of well-received DJ mixes to his name, The Gaslamp Killer, aka California’s William Bensussen, has crafted a fine sonic stew that lurches from dark, edgy paranoia to more melodic, drum-heavy daydreaming and back again.
Like the bionic arm on the front cover, Brainfeeder’s mad scientist of psych-hop tears off his skin to reveal an interior made of blood and steel on his intensely dark and personal debut album, ‘Breakthrough’. Not only is it a ‘breakthrough’ that the man born William Benjamin Bensussen, has finally found some time away from his pedantic crate-digging to release an album, ‘Breakthrough’ appears to chronicle some disturbing instances of severe self-loathing (‘Veins’, featuring Gonjasufi’s sun-scorched croak) and soul-destroying adversity and how they have come to shape him as a man. As one might expect from an album that opens with the line, “do me a favour, and cut your veins”, Breakthrough paints in graphic detail, how he ‘broke through’ these crippling barriers; by dementedly laughing in their face and smashing shit up with psychotic relish.
"This is the way the world ends", a child's voice croons during the hidden outro of Gaslamp Killer's long-awaited debut album Breakthrough, and it clearly marks out the album that preceded it as an intentionally apocalyptic affair. It's dark, brooding, and drenched in weighty atmospherics, and sure, it's all of these dread-inducing things that you'd associate with the end times. But more importantly than that, it's also an exuberant, thrilling and joyous slab of giddily inventive noise.
It took a number of years, but there finally exists a full-length album by the Gaslamp Killer. L.A. producer William Bensussen has been active in the scene since his late teens, helping to found Low End Theory in 2006, subsequently releasing a handful of singles and a plethora of mixes that reflected the DJ's infatuation with underground hip-hop, obscure world music, classic psychedelia and bass music.