Gonjasufi: Mystic Beats

When Sumach Valentine emerged from the L.A. music scene in the early 1990s, adopting the alias "Gonjasufi," a guest vocal on Flying Lotus' 2008 track "Testament" led to a solo deal on Warp Records. The challenge in describing his music is the vast number of sub-genres involved—from '60s psychedelia and garage rock to '70s dub reggae and B-movie soundtracks—which still come up short in describing Gonjasufi's enigmatic and often cryptic sounds. He has deep connections to L.A.'s electronic "beat scene"—Flying Lotus and The Gaslamp Killer produced the majority of his debut, A Sufi and a Killer—as well as the lingering influence of the West Coast indie rap scene and self-styled ghetto mystics such as Myka 9 and Abstract Tribe Unique.

On A Sufi and a Killer, he croaks in a plain and ruddy voice, and his swami-like presence meshes into the groovy Day-Glo sounds. The album opens with the sounds of an Indian ceremony as Gonjasufi muses that he wishes he were a sheep, "Only because I wouldn't have to kill to eat." His declarative phrasing demands we find deeper enlightenment. Is it just an evocative song, a renunciation of war or a plea for universal veganism?

The new LP MU.ZZ.LE offers more mysteries. On "Feedin' Birds," he talks about the pleasures of domestic bliss in a duet with his wife, and then chants the title of the song "Venom" over and over amidst a smoked-out trip-hop beat. Gonjasufi often distorts his voice with echo and megaphone effects, but MU.ZZ.LE isn't self-indulgent frippery. To the contrary, he makes these dense passion plays seem effortless, even if our complex responses suggest otherwise. – Mosi Reeves, Google Music

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