The Gaslamp Killer “Breakthrough” | Brainfeeder
Native to the most southern region of California, San Diego and now a resident of the fast paced everything goes territory of Los Angeles, The Gaslamp Killer has traveled across many regions of the world in the last decade or so through his music spreading a wealth of energy to the masses. He is a man of the people and his music stands for something very pure in the modern analog and digital age. I feel he represents one of the highest states of electric power through sound, a wave like strength that has been evident from his beginnings when he would knock needles off the turntables from rocking so hard and catch the needle and put it right back on the groove as if nothing had happened. If you have seen this turntablist, producer and musician live, you know how crazy and euphoric things can get and that energy has come full circle with his debut full length on Brainfeeder called Breakthrough. 17 tracks that run a little under 50 minutes, this is an album full of so many ideas, tones and colors that it becomes endless in representation. It shows a unique direction with experimentalism that can justly be describe as GLK’s sound. The inclusion of many producers and artists on the project gives the album the type of varied result that speaks of a language that goes far beyond just one individual.
As one of the most anticipated electronic and hip hop producer albums to come out this year, The Gaslamp Killer went the extra mile to create a body of work that we feel is a timeless piece of art, not just a beat album. I think of the Twilight Zone when I hear Breakthrough. The interludes, the style of drum breaks, the open ended spiritual states, psychotic flows of energy; there is a subtle relationship that exists between the acoustic and electronic domain all over the album that is superb. When most modern producers are cycling through a reminiscing sound from track to track, The Gaslamp Killer puts together a collage of songs, creating a fascinating sonic experience. I am reminded in many ways of how diverse an album like Electric Ladyland from Hendrix is, especially with a psychedelic backdrop, a matrix of exotic layers and a level of sophistication that brings it all together flawlessly.
Breakthrough has that gritty San Diego sound musicians like Tenshun, Gonjasufi and Psychopop have brought to the world for years. Everything is rooted in heavy states of contact with this album, especially when you hear the power of the bass, drums and melodic ideas through a hi def sound system. I have also listened to this album on multiple occasions with headphones and the stereo field created is incredible, showing how much detail was given to the position of each instrument inside of the mix. Sounds are constantly moving and panning in all directions while the heart of the drum, bass and other grounded elements stay centered and moving forward. It’s grafted in corridors of 3D movement and feels a Mati Klarwein piece. I recall the band The Mars Volta a great deal in terms of how alive the mix is.
Constructed over a large period of time and around touring in many places over the world, his residency at the ever expanding Low End Theory and his involvement with the Brainfeeder and Alpha Pup labels, Breakthrough begins with a psychedelia laced intro with no percussion that recalls the voice of the 70′s when experimentation was reaching new grounds with new technology and machinery. Sounds are colliding into one another from every directions in a processed field of ricochet vocal samples and sounds of every kind. Ending with a beautiful sample of a vocal group harmonizing over a band, the stage has been set for the first feature track of the record with Gonjasufi called “Veins”. The music is still devoid of percussion at this point, showing a beautiful layering of violin, synth and guitar with the unforgettable and unique vocal style of Gonjasufi. He has one of my favorite voices in the modern age and it’s with perfect affect that his appearance early in the album sets off things into a very deep spiritual state for the album. “Veins” has a very elegant feeling to it, setting the albums momentum up for one of the biggest and heaviest drum tracks I have heard in “Holy Mt Washington”. Featuring Computer Jay, the slow burning essence of the whistle and synth layering bleeds into the speakers with a dark beauty that molds itself over the monstrous drum and bass work. “Holy Mt Washington” hits into the speakers in an almost violent and assaulting manner with how big the bottom end sounds. “Father” is the first of a few interludes that break up the album into sections. Also centered around a collage esk psychedelia field of processed sounds, it’s another excursion into an altered world where sound takes on very different forms.
“Critic” has the traces of a shadow in its remnants, wobbling in and out with one of the oddest combinations of tones. It’s the kind of sound where the Middle East meets the illustrious Los Angeles beat scene. The other man on this track is Mophono, another artist who stretches limitations in the beat world. One of my favorite collaborations comes in the next track “Dead Vets”. Featuring San Diego native and drum extraordinaire MRR and multi-instrumentalist and composer Adrian Younge, the three create a song that rides out deep with some really beautiful layers that are tightly woven around the transfixing drum work. Lush organ statements and spaghetti western guitar fills dominate the melodic phrasing of the song. It’s a raw yet elegant song, something GLK captures so well with the perfect balance. The highly accomplished violinist and composer Miguel Atwood-Ferguson has been all over the modern electronic scene doing session work for the best and GLK included him into his vision for Breakthrough like many of his colleagues have. Included on the single for the album “Flang Face”, the two come together for a menacing and dark approach to experimental beat music and sophisticated experimentation’s into the classical domain. Miguel Atwood Ferguson layers down prophetic lines on his violin while GLK layers massive drum breaks and synth lines that shape into every position possible.
The next interlude of Breakthrough comes in the track “Fuck”. This is a song that you have to hear to believe. It speaks of the humor and light hearted yet clever and intelligent nature of The Gaslamp Killer. Gonjasufi makes his second appearance on the record with the next track “Apparitions”. Using a large portion of a song from the late and great Ethiopian composer Mulatu Astatke sourced somewhere between the 60′s/70′s, the vintage and analog aura of the album comes to an apex in this song. GLK flips the track in the most subtle way with effects laced into the original Mulatu piece while Gonjasufi’s vocals sounds like a beacon of light that only prophets can put into a collected representation through sound. This track reminds me of the Sufi and a Killer album Gonjasufi and GLK worked on together and it’s a stand out track in GLK’s career. The album takes on a flight into an 8-bit space world with “Impulse” where Daedelus utilizes his sequencers over GLK’s psychotic production work. The music is cut up with a ton of transitions over the psychedelic chamber music the two seasoned producers created. The climax of energy at the end is incredible and is reminiscent to how GLK can flip the room inside and out during his live performances.
The music takes on a heavy experimental excursion of insanity in the piece “Peasants, Cripples and Retards”. Included is Brainfeeder artist SAMIYAM and the track sounds like synthesizers are being ripped a part before your ears. With a heavy dose of rhythm present, it has a crazy vibe that further cements the albums exotic and varied flow from track to track. “Meat Guilt” with RSI brings that heaviness on the drums and showers in a drifting canvas of synth and an overall muscular feel that pays homage to the hip hop foundations that birthed the producers roll in the art form. As the last interlude of the album,”Mother” is the most intriguing of the set. The musical backdrop is set in a 70′s French fusion state with the sample of a mother speaking about her child. The origin of this recording is for all I know unknown and is an incredible breathing point for the album. With the amount of heavy drum work presented, these resting points give the album an energy recharge.
“Nissim” is the song on the album that leaves me in awe on every listen. Named after his grandfather , this is one of the most sublime states of composition GLK has ever reached. There is a transferring of energy between the modern drum and production work of the LA beat scene and the mystic nature of the yiali tambur that is the main melody of the song. I picture looking at 50+ foot waves when I hear a song like this as it puts me into a deep meditative and reflective mood. It’s a relaxing and soothing piece and is the song I feel makes the record one of the most forward thinking electronic albums of the year. “Keep It Simple Stupid” with Shigeto has a omni presence in the bottom end, shooting out waves of sonic bliss on the top register that speaks of the Middle East again. The drum work is incredible, towering in 32nd notes with precision and fire that all break down at the drop of a dime with quick rolls. It’s an incredible feet accomplished with live electronic drum pads.
Dimlite, one of my favorite producers out right now, takes partnership with GLK in the piece “Seven Years of Bad Luck for Fun”. Another dark window of sound becomes evident in this track, with interlocking samples and synths that move in cycles. The mix is really alive on the song with the amount of panning that occurs. The break down and build up in the middle section of the song is one of my favorite moments on the album. This is modern sci-fi horror music that relies on tones of a sub world, the heart of the drum and thundering bass fills. The ending section is surprisingly beautiful and serene though. There is a lot more space used in this ending section than most of the song calls upon. The end of the album is near and the remaining six minutes are given to the GLK solo track “In The Dark…”. This is the song on the album that reminds of the voice of The Mars Volta. Highly metallic and psychedelic, this is a great ending to an album that stops at nothing to present a world of sounds unlike anything else. Gonjasufi makes a small vocal appearance and the rest of the music is given to the layering symphonic essence of the modern experimental electronica world GLK is helping to pave into genre form. Cello, deep swells of texturized synth, tightly woven drum work and dynamics for miles, this the type of ending I crave for albums to contain and leave the last note on. It had been awhile since I encountered an album where a nice portion of dead space leads the dedicated listener into a bonus section of music. That situation holds true with Breakthrough as the ending section reprises with a very special closing statement that is minimal, subdued and elegant in design but is emotionally as powerful as anything you can experience live from the man.
I really feel Breakthrough is a masterpiece. It took me many encounters to come to understand the record but it hit me like a ton of bricks the deeper I became familiar with the subtle intricacies of how this album is put together. The Gaslamp Killer has been in the game for a long time and now he has come full circle with his first debut full length on Brainfeeder, Breakthrough.