Saturday, February 26, 2011

2010 - Fifty Great Releases, 5 - 1

5. Teebs - Ardour

Teebs' debut LP for Brainfeeder was one of my most anticipated releases of 2010, and it delivered on my every expectation and hope, and then some. Around the fall of 2009 I heard about Teebs from Nosaj Thing's excellent mix of music for the XLR8R Podcast series. Apparently Teebs got into making music when he sustained an injury from skateboarding and found a lot of time on his hands; somehow, he connected to Flying Lotus and became his roommate in LA. Teebs handed out a CD-R compilation in 2009 which completely sold me the first time I heard it. My readers probably know about me that I put a high priority on beauty, and Teebs makes futuristic instrumental hip hop that possesses utopian levels of beauty.

Ardour takes the best handful of tracks from the Teebs '09 compilation and distributes them among more than a dozen newer tracks to form a very tightly focused album. All but one of the tracks (the dreamy "Long Distance" featuring Gaby Hernandez on vocals) are instrumental, and many of them use a similar combination of chimes, bells, sparkling clean electric guitars, bass, Rhodes, ambient synth patches and traditional hip hop percussion. Lush and warm nearly to the point of humidity, the album effortlessly breezes by with some of the most consistently excellent production, melodic hooks and rhythmic flair around. Not a single track is weak, and a handful of them are as good as anything out there. Why, then, did the album end up at my #5 spot when I initially thought it was Top 3 material?

For being so consistent in instrumentation and so constantly gorgeous, combined with the length, Ardour ends up suffering a little bit from samey-ness and Ear Candy Syndrome. Basically we get a little too much of a really good thing. If the album were shorter or changed up its mood a little more, I would probably call it perfect. It works well as a musical trip to paradise, but I'd like to hear Teebs explore some colors other than glowing pastels. One darker track, and a standout on the album, "Why Like This", suggests he could very well work more with grittier sounds if he wanted.

Despite this selfish criticism I still think Teebs is making some of the most interesting new music, truly evolving beyond hip hop to probe sci-fi realms nobody else is exploring. His live sets go full-on psychedelic at times, and anybody in the vicinity of Eagle Rock should check out the new monthly live event "Futura" at the Center for the Arts, curated by Teebs and Asura. I should also mention that Teebs is a talented visual artist and the painter of his own album cover. With a craft as tight as anybody's in the game, Teebs could become the new most exciting beat pioneer by taking his sound just a little bit deeper.

4. Charles Lloyd Quartet - Mirror

No saxophonist I can think of has released more high quality albums throughout the 2000s than Charles Lloyd. His latest for ECM, Mirror, is not just the best jazz album of 2010 but one of the finest albums Charles Lloyd has ever recorded in his 45+ years as a respected improviser, interpreter and composer. His current band, with Jason Moran on piano, Reuben Rogers on bass, and Eric Harland on drums, is one of the strongest active jazz quartets. Their last album was the 2008 live concert recording Rabo de Nube, highlighting their passionately energetic interplay and daring solos. Things are relatively more toned down and introspective on Mirror, which features the group at their most sensitive and elegant.

The track selection includes several Charles Lloyd originals including the beaming, lovely "Desolation Sound", asymmetrical "Mirror" and exotic "Being and Becoming", as well as fresh interpretations of standards and spirituals like "I Fall in Love Too Easily", "Go Down, Moses", and "The Water is Wide". The band plays two Thelonious Monk tunes, "Monk's Mood" and "Ruby, My Dear", giving both of them an indescribably pretty, closer to celestial treatment; at one point of Jason Moran's supremely lyrical solo on "Ruby, My Dear" he lands on a note in the upper register and repeats it over and over while echoing it an octave below - this is one of the most heart-stoppingly-lovely brief moments in music recorded in 2010. "Lift Every Voice and Sing" has its anthemic melody stretched and contracted over rapidly skittering drums in more or less controlled free-time, and after a rollicking, Jaki Byard-esque solo from Moran, Lloyd releases uninhibited streams of melody worthy of John Coltrane.

The meditative, spiritual and deeply inspired mood throughout the album is encapsulated in the final track, "Tagi", which features Charles Lloyd reciting verse from the Bhagavad Gita before launching into joyous sax improvisation. "Become angry, you confuse your mind. Confuse your mind, you forget the lesson of experience. Forget experience, you lose discrimination. Lose discrimination, you miss life's only purpose." This is contemporary jazz as moving and essential as anything recorded in its golden era.

3. Celer - Dwell in Possibility / Dying Star / Honey Moon

Dwell in Possibility

Dying Star

Honey Moon

Three of Celer's many 2010 releases impressed me so much on the first listen, and continued to deepen with further listens, that I couldn't pick just one to make my Top 3. All three are of quite different breeds, and all are top tier entries to the Celer catalog and good starting points for new listeners to the group.

Dwell in Possibility was the very first full-length Celer album to be released on vinyl alone. Its name is loosely suggestive of its content - a large number of musical possibilities contrasting in timbre, texture, color and mood rapidly float by like a sequence of (day)dreams. The instrumentation includes processed voice, cello, violin, piano, ocarina, field recordings, rocks, whistles, a toy organ, and cassette tapes; none of these are clearly recognizable for what they are, though their diversity comes through in the subtle movement from one combination of timbres to the next. Side 1 is titled

"I've Thought Only of Empty Shadows / Embark, Hollow Heart /
Adhered Irreverence / Empty Streets of Accurate Reasons /
The Street Rain & Pain of the City Rests Under My Toenails /
One Long Blast / Fine-Tuned Treetop / Functioning Voluptuary

revealing that its 18-minute form is subdivided into 8 distinct movements. Though there are no gaps between movements and the dividing points are pretty fuzzy, the changes are much easier to perceive than on other of their albums that follow a similar plan, e.g. Poulaine in 13 Parts and Fountain Glider in 22 Parts. Nevertheless, the structure takes many close listens to carve out. From a spooky beginning comprised of muffled and detuned strings, Side 1 meanders amorphously until more sustained drones emerge, first in the high and then low registers, the feel becoming increasingly uneasy. Tension mounts as a filter passes over the thick stream of drones, only letting through a few in the middle register, becoming more concentrated and anxious. The filter breaks and a huge and ominously resonant tone cluster bursts onto the sound stage, only to gently subside into a lacuna long enough to reset the listener's bearings until another monumental mass of pulsing bass tones comes rolling along. This dark wave leaves a limpid field of bright drones in its wake, washing away the earlier atmosphere of dread and warmly closing Side 1 with the solace of fragile, shifting beauty.

Side 2, only slightly shorter than Side 1 and divided into seven parts, is titled

"A Mislaying of the Out-and-Out / Trespassing In Love's Furrows /
Umbrella Terms Protecting Puddles / Bony Hands and Hips Drawn /
The Satisfied Disorder / Say A Prayer For Me Tonight / The Veins of My Days"

The first portion of this side is distinctly sadder in tone than anything on Side 1, making its transition to the blissfully enchanting middle section all the more sublime. The record then enters a region more stable, focused, reserved and pure than any heard leading up to it, ultimately closing on a note of melancholy. 'Deep' hardly begins to describe it all; be sure to try spinning it at 30 RPM to go even deeper.

Dying Star is a very different affair. The instrumentation on this 50 minute album reads "Analog Synthesizer, Mixing Board". That's it. The entire album was free-improvised in one shot on a keyboard, without post-processing applied, which gives us a unique document of Will & Danielle Long working purely on instinct, in the moment. The control, restraint and taste they maintain in this most demanding of formats is downright incredible; this dying star is not a violent supernova, but a white dwarf billions of years old, finally puffing away its last layers. Activity is kept at a relatively low level for the most part, and the album is mixed very quietly; amping up the volume isn't encouraged, as this music was meant to capture a sense of seclusion. Despite how low-key and relatively static the tracks are, close attentive listening is greatly rewarded every time a subtle shift or accentuation occurs. In particular, there's a magical moment that another reviewer described right on the money:

"Yet despite the seeming placidity of the Dying Star's trajectory, the album's most poignant moment comes at the beginning of the final track. Flickers (Goodnight) is the only track that doesn't begin in silence, but instead is crossfaded directly from its predecessor. Even more significant, its continuing drone is overlaid with the only two even mildly percussive events, aptly characterized by the flickers in the track title, coming at the very beginning of the track and echoed about forty seconds in. These two events, so quiet as to be barely suggested, and appearing only after forty minutes of quiet undulating drones, are Dying Star's hidden treasure. Is it the dying star finally imploding, creating a brief flash all too easily overlooked? Has the listener drifted into an oblivious somnolence and heard it only in his or her dreams? Celer makes a call to the listener's attention and imagination and thereby elevates this release to one of their best." - Classical Drone

Well said, Caleb Deupree.

Neither as reserved & ascetic as Dying Star nor as diverse & kaleidoscopic as Dwell in Possibility, the cassette release Honey Moon occupies a somewhat more standard place in the Celer discography. The album was recorded "at home on the Autumnal Equinox, 2008" and is nocturnal through and through. Each side of the cassette has three tracks separated by silence, adding up to nearly an hour of Celer's trademark hypnotic immersion. Though the title suggests brightness and the joy of new matrimony, the work is eerily moody, balancing the murky feelings of the night with the ethereal glow of the moon.

Celer continue to stun with their ever-growing pool of releases. Thankfully, the rate of new material coming out seems to have curbed a bit, giving us some time to digest all that they've given us so far. I'm nowhere near exhausting all the beautiful and subtle details on the three albums in this review, let alone the dozens of other of their albums available. 2010 removed all doubt that Celer have the most impressive discography of any ambient group.

2. AFTA-1 - F O R M

I think I will take the lazy way out with this one and link to my past review of the album. Nothing has changed with respect to how strongly I feel about this jewel of instrumental hip hop. This is one of not too many albums I'm happy calling "perfect". How AFTA-1 remains an under-the-radar, unsigned artist, I have no idea. Easily one of the most talented and individual voices working in this new wave of beat based music.

1. Flying Lotus - Comosgramma

Cosmogramma is not a perfect album. It's not the best thing I've ever heard or even necessarily the most moving thing I heard in 2010. That said, I can't deny that it's the most unprecedented, important, on-another-level album released last year, promising more great and exciting things to come in bigger ways than any other 2010 release.

My quibbles with Flying Lotus' masterpiece are few in number and nitpicky. First, I think he could have and should have employed his cousin Ravi Coltrane to more substantial ends. The two tracks Ravi is afforded, "Arkestry" and "German Haircut", both sound like amorphous interludes - frankly, filler - compared to the rest of the album. For how indebted to jazz Cosmogramma is, I wish it had taken what was a ripe opportunity to include some actual trailblazing future-jazz with these tracks. Second, the album's structural arc is very hard to get a grip on, and I'm still not totally sold on it, particularly with how it opens, immediately throwing the listener into a fray of hectic confusion before shifting gears; you know something funny is going on when the fourth track is titled "Intro". I've heard the argument that Cosmogramma is divided roughly into three sections which represent the old Flying Lotus style (loop-heavy electronic arcade Los Angeles era), the new style (more organic and jazz influenced), and the transition between the two. Fair enough, but that kind of meta-ness distracts me a little bit, and overall I wish I simply got the new Flying Lotus. "Intro" would have made a really sweet first track.

Okay, this hasn't been the most glowing review so far for what I'm calling the album of the year. The truth is, what I perceive as flaws are the result of an excess of brilliance, not a lack of it. On the positive tip, there are about fourteen or so tracks here that are some of the most mind blowing things you can hear right at the moment. Many, many words have already been written about how great this stuff is, and in the interest of finally being done with this Fifty Great Releases list, I won't add too many more. Flying Lotus is a genius and charging the way to a future of sound I can't really imagine. His influence on other musicians is profound, and with his Brainfeeder label promoting artists like piano prodigy Austin Peralta, he may just be able to make jazz cool again with the young kids. Conclusion: if you live under a rock and haven't heard Cosmogramma yet, I wholeheartedly recommend you get on that ASAP.

Wow! It feels good to finally have this project behind me. I think 2010 was one of the most amazing years for music in recent memory, and so far 2011 has been delivering equally amazing goods. At this point I'm going to take a little break from reviewing to focus on composing and recording some new music. I hope you enjoyed my (way past its due-date) Top 50!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

2010 - Fifty Great Releases, 10 - 6

10. Keith Jarrett & Charlie Haden - Jasmine

A quick glance at this deceptively simple album cover may lead many to see nothing more than a couple intersecting plane figures. Look a little longer however and you notice that the design is more naturally interpreted as the result of one continuous line motion - it actually cannot be broken down into two complete, overlapping rectangles. I smell an analogy. The music on this album, too, is deceptively simple. Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden play so straight-ahead throughout Jasmine that it could have been recorded in the early '60s (except that a few of their song choices hadn't been written yet). However, there is a depth of communication and sensitivity of musicianship present that is rarely heard in jazz of any period, except from total masters of the art. This music cannot be effectively broken down into two complete, overlapping piano and bass parts.

Eschewing all pyrotechnics and showboating, Jarrett and Haden offer a revitalization of one of my favorite jazz formats: the stripped-down deep ballad. It had been three decades since the two played music together before Jasmine, but each is such a consummate musician individually, and each is so concerned with subtlety and refinement in particular, that their long time apart did nothing to affect their compatibility. They sound like old friends playing from the heart. If Jarrett takes somewhat more time in a leading position throughout, Haden makes the deliberateness of his understatement clear in his solos, which never once call special attention to technique or speed. All the delicacy is called for, as Jarrett explicitly writes that this is nighttime music for lovers - but it's also anytime music for the self-reflective. Anybody who appreciates the 1960s recordings of Bill Evans (Portrait in Jazz, Waltz for Debby, Moon Beams, Undercurrent and a lot more) should make it a priority to hear Jasmine, especially Jarrett & Haden's contrapuntal cover of Evan's jaunty and cool "No Moon At All". Without any uninspired moments, this is the most intimate and straightforwardly beautiful recording Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden have released in a long time, together or apart.

9. Kayo Dot - Coyote

It's becoming increasingly hard to describe what kind of music Kayo Dot make. From the metal roots of their progenitors maudlin of the Well, through four LP releases and several changes in personnel, the band has evolved past the point of genre classification. I like the non-descriptive umbrella "new chamber music" for their third album Blue Lambency Downward and their latest, Coyote. The instrumentation includes bass, drums, vocals, violin, trumpet, saxophones, and synths - and almost no guitar, a significant choice for a group that's been moving further away from their aforementioned metal roots.

What unites all of their albums is the presence of (melo)drama: concept-driven narrative arcs, references to the occult, dark and often dissonant instrumentation, and an air of total seriousness. Actually, moments of Blue Lambency Downward reveal the band's unique sense of humor, but there's nothing funny about Coyote, except maybe its name. The story behind the album was developed by Yuko Sueta, artist and close personal friend of group-mastermind Toby Driver, during the last stage of her life; sadly, she lost a battle with breast cancer. Musically it's the band's most unrelentingly heavy and pitch-black album to date, heavily influenced by '80s goth rock bands like Bauhaus and Faith and the Muse. Driver also acknowledged another interesting influence on the album, Herbie Hancock's Sextant. At no point would I really call Coyote "jazzy" but there are definitely places where the trumpet and sax arrangements recall Eddie Henderson's colorful solos, and this is also the most rhythmically charged, at times almost groovy Kayo Dot album.

Coyote is the band's shortest LP at a little under 40 minutes, and given its intensity and complexity that's not a bad thing. "Calonyction Girl" opens very strongly with menacing gestures from the violin, bass and drums; rarely have I heard bass harmonics sound so sinister. Driver quickly brings his voice to the forefront with pained, elongated phrases in fluid rhythm. After three minutes the song picks up momentum and becomes more rhythmically defined, ultimately building to a crushing odd-meter vamp that could be Kayo Dot's spin on "Hidden Shadows" (Herbie Hancock, Sextant). The song also features one of the band's most surprising and lovely moments as it deceptively closes on a totally unexpected note of joy, with an extended major chord.

Continuing with a song-by-song analysis would result in an overly long review (not to mention spoil all the album's nice surprises), so suffice to say that the rest of the material maintains the standard of excellence set by "Calonyction Girl", though there are no further respites to happiness. The brilliant compositional arrangements throughout deliver fear, anger, sadness, beauty and wonder with an intensity few bands can match, and really, no other bands I know of are even trying to meld popular heavy music with 20th century avant-garde techniques in a remotely similar way. Kayo Dot are certainly a one of a kind group and they keep churning out masterpieces without repeating themselves.

8. Supersilent - 10
Supersilent's tenth album marks a very different direction for Deathprod, Arve Henriksen and Stale Storlokken. Lacking a drummer, the band has turned to increased harmonic sophistication and textural diversity to hold the listener's attention as they explore the infinite possibilities of free improvisation. The brief 10.1 begins with a piercing sustained trumpet note from Henriksen, over which Storlokken scatters some clear high piano notes. Storlokken harnesses chromaticism beautifully without giving a sense of total atonality, and the stark opener gives the impression of a dirge or elegy as Henriksen's tone takes on greater inflections of pain. Quite suddenly this melodic start completely gives way to texture, as the creeping fog of 10.2 fades in and Deathprod weaves a noxious mist with his one of a kind "Audiovirus", an amalgamation of signal processors. No band communication is apparent on this track, but it is effective ambient music. 10.3 and 10.4 return to the instrumentation of the opener plus electronics, with Storlokken on piano playing his most harmonically daring material to date. Apparently he was influenced by the compositions of Gyorgy Ligeti for these sessions, and one can definitely hear the impact of the 20th century avant-garde in general on his playing. Whereas previous Supersilent albums tended to be on the harmonically static side, generating interest mainly through dynamic variation, 10 features frequent distant modulations, chromaticism, artificial scales, and overall a much more impressionistic and unpredictable sound. When Storlokken untimidly lands on a surprising chord, the other players react and adjust immediately so nothing sounds like a mistake.

On 10.5 Supersilent work with bowel-rumblingly heavy drones and harsh noises reminiscent of their earlier material from 1-3, evoking the slow plod of some kind of megalithic golem bent on breaking stuff. It's an unexpected turn on this album, but a welcome switch to a sound many have come to expect from the band: thick, with a directly gutsy and aggressive attitude. This doesn't develop for long though, as 10.6 bends back in the opposite direction to textural sparsity and lovely diatonic melodies from the trumpet and a Brian Eno-esque wobbly keyboard sound. Beautiful melodic phrasing continues with the next two tracks; 10.7 is a dreamlike interlude for piano and trumpet with crystalline, pointillistic piano lines that are chromatic yet strangely consonant, and 10.8 - the longest track and functional centerpiece of the album - is arguably the most earnest and lovely piece the band has ever recorded, like a hymn on the sadness of existence, with Henriksen displaying the heights of his lyricism.

Things take another sharp turn with 10.9, another standout track and a return to Deathprod's thick ambient textures, this time more in the hazy extraterrestrial vein previously explored on 6 (probably Supersilent's most consistent, best album, and for me one of the absolute greatest records of the 2000s). Geologic bass tones mix with subtly shifting drone pads and bleeping alien signal transmissions to give a sonic picture of lonely beings marooned on an uncharted planet. Contrasting greatly with this is 10.10, the humble jewel of the album, less than 90 seconds of exquisite guitar, trumpet and piano interplay around a major triad. Yet another curve ball is tossed at the listener with 10.11, the fifth track on 10 under two minutes long. Here (and only here) percussion and repetition are the dominant elements, with a glitchy percussive sound repeating at unsteady intervals against computerized blips. Machine-like in timbre yet organic in development, the zen-like track reminds me of some of the more abstract material on the classic ambient glitch album Frame by Shuttle358.

10.12 closes the album on a foreboding note. Again Storlokken's piano playing displays sophisticated harmonic awareness, with dark polytonalities echoing Ligeti and Bartok. He mainly stays in the low registers of the piano, building tension while Deathprod and Henriksen provide additional dark colors. In the final quarter of the piece the trademark Supersilent UFO synth sound enters in the upper register, offering a climactic melody supported by the trumpet. Finally out of the dissonance the piano reveals a tonic note, and the piece ends with a firmly resolved cadence.

Supersilent have evolved in range with each release, but 10 displays them in a particularly sharp period of stylistic transition. Never before have their improvisations sounded so deliberate and planned out, almost mistakable for fully composed contemporary chamber music. Losing their drummer forced them to either quit or else drastically change their language and scope, and happily in choosing the latter they've recorded one of their most fascinating and moving albums.

7. Madlib - Medicine Shows

Medicine Show #4: 420 Chalice All Stars

Medicine Show #5: The History of the Loop Digga

Medicine Show #7: High Jazz

Medicine Show #8: Advanced Jazz

The award for hardest working and most diverse producer in the game today goes to Madlib. At the beginning of 2010 it was announced that Stones Throw would be releasing a new Madlib full-length every month through the whole year, alternatively in the form of albums and mixtapes. Dubbed the Medicine Show series, ten of the twelve releases have seen the light of day; numbers 9 and 12 remain mysteriously unavailable. As it stands the collection is as follows:

#1: Before the Verdict
#2: Flight to Brazil*
#3: Beat Konducta in Africa
#4: 420 Chalice All Stars*
#5: History of the Loop Digga
#6: The Brain Wreck Show*
#7: High Jazz
#8: Advanced Jazz*
#10: Black Soul*
#11: Low Budget High Fi Music


All of the installments I've heard range from very good to outstanding, and there are several I'd like to draw particular attention to. I've been hoping for a new Quasimoto album for a long time - The Unseen (2000) is one of my favorite hip hop albums ever, and The Further Adventures of Lord Quas (2005) is a great companion to it, if not a classic in itself. Episode five of the Medicine Show isn't a new Lord Quas album, but it's about as good instrumentally as The Unseen, and resides in a similar realm as that masterpiece. All of the material on the archival History of the Loop Digga was created prior to 2000, and it almost comes across like a collection of mostly-instrumental B-sides to The Unseen, making it a jazzy-hip-hop treasure trove. Alongside Beat Konducta Vol. 5-6 (Madlib's tribute to J Dilla) and the aforementioned Quasimoto albums, Medicine Show #5 has joined the ranks of my absolute favorite Madlib releases. The last five tracks feature Madlib freestyling with his Oxnard crew, and a number of Lord Quas motifs appear, like the sample "Warning...the Surgeon General...has determined...that the sounds you are about to hear...could be your ears..."

Medicine Show #8: Advanced Jazz is a mixtape of trail-blazing jazz artists with some vocal skits interspersed throughout (it wouldn't be a Madlib release without some kind of vocal element). Happily, the skits don't detract from the great jazz selections at all, as they're either hilarious or interesting throwbacks to 60's and 70's culture. The tracks are named after jazz masters, like "Miles", "Ornette", "Pharoah", etc. I don't recognize any but one of the selections, namely Grant Green's terrific solo on "Back From The Gig" from Horace Parlan's album Happy Frame of Mind, which I reviewed a while back. This appears at the start of track 2, "Ornette", and none of the other various selections on this track sound like Ornette Coleman to my ears; there seems to be no connection between the titles and the artists present on each track. The material stays on the uptempo, fiery and exploratory side, and overall the mixtape gives the listener the impression of listening to one of the coolest jazz radio programs ever, without any DJ commentary but featuring a wide range of engaging supportive vocal performances. It sure would be nice if a full track list surfaced.

Other great entries in the series include: #6: The Brain Wreck Show, a collection of psychedelic 70s Kraut rock - turns out Madlib is a fan of Brainticket; #4: 420 Chalice All Stars, a crucial compilation of classic dub and roots reggae; #3: Beat Konducta in Africa, yet another deep, ambitious and banging entry in the Beat Konducta series; and #7: High Jazz, which features Madlib playing different live instruments under many aliases like Yesterday's New Quintet, the Jahari Massamba Unit and others, showing Madlib to be not just one of the greatest beat composers but also an adept and sensitive live player. I can't wait to find out what the last remaining album and mixtape will be like. Maybe, just maybe, the long awaited third Quasimoto LP is close at hand. Until the day that certain-to-be-crazy album emerges, though, I'm more than satisfied with the torrent of releases Madlib has been churning out; not all of them are top tier relative to his entire discography, but all of them are top tier relative to new music in general.

6. Gonjasufi - A Sufi and A Killer

One of the most diverse, unique and memorable albums of 2010, A Sufi and A Killer was released to just about unanimous acclaim, and I won't be going against the grain. Gonjasufi came on my radar via his contribution to Flying Lotus' Los Angeles in the form of those hauntingly cracked vocals on "Testament". Shortly before the release of Gonjasufi's debut LP, the single "Ancestors" made waves on the Internet; produced by Flying Lotus, the brilliant track combines ocean-deep bass lines, harmonium drones and introspective sitar melodies with Gonjasufi's anguished vocals on the brink of breaking. This track had me looking forward to an album midway between Los Angeles and India, but A Sufi and A Killer is much more multidimensional than that. Most of the production is handled by The Gaslamp Killer, well known for his encyclopedic knowledge of obscure world psychedelia, and Gonjasufi's debut LP has not just Indian flavors but Turkish, Middle Eastern, blues, rock, soul, folk, funk, hip-hop and even doo-wop. All of these influences are filtered through a lens of decay and grime - as Flying Lotus put it, "timeless, incredible filth" - resulting in a one-of-a-kind sound that's simultaneously ancient and futuristic. The opening prelude "(Bharatanatyam)" with a steady pounding drum and tribal vocal chant sets the scene with what sounds like centuries' worth of sonic distortion and patina.

Standouts are many on this almost hour-long album. Preceding "Ancestors" (the only Flying Lotus-produced track on the album, and one of the best cuts) is the excellent "Kobwebz", soaked in reverbed, overdriven guitars and vocals, spacey synth swoops and Turkish scales. Later there's the golden shimmering 70's psych of "Stardustin'", immediately followed by "Kowboyz and Indians", the most swagged out Bollywood-ish track I've heard. Several gems are contributed by producer Mainframe, including "Candylane" with its fatally-funky bassline, and the retro-electronic, almost Radiohead-esque "Holidays". On "Ageing", produced by The Gaslamp Killer, Gonjasufi imitates the wispy, frail vocals of a wizened old man, over a twisted Delta blues. Throughout the album Gonjasufi demonstrates amazing vocal range, and the producers treat his timbre in a variety of effective ways, usually towards the end of making it sound dirtier.

A Sufi and A Killer is an ambitious and somewhat sprawling album that requires multiple listens to really unlock, but it should be clear from the first that it's like nothing else out there. Gonjasufi came on the scene a fully matured artist with a compelling vision, and I eagerly await his next release.