He’s a Maniac, Maniac: New Music from Gonjasufi

Peter Holslin celebrates new music from resident eccentric, Gonjasufi.
By    July 12, 2016

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Peter Holslin has no hot takes left to give

The world needs more artists like Gonjasufi—people who don’t give a flying fuck about the “album cycle,” who intentionally upturn your expectations, who turn social media profiles into riddles unfolding in real time.

The last we heard a full-length solo effort from Sumach Ecks was four years ago, when the Warp-signed singer/producer dropped his album MU.ZZ.LE. That year he also teamed up with the Gaslamp Killer on “Veins” from GLK’s Breakthrough, and he parlayed one of the best tracks off MU.ZZ.LE into an appearance on Jay Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail. It was a good year for him. Following his 2010 debut A Sufi and a Killer, those murk-encrusted loops and haunting melodies continued to rise up and grab a growing audience by the throat.

Sufi has always been open about how his art reflects a deep well of anger and pain; he’s worked through it on the yoga mat and with his MPC. Now he’s releasing a new album, Callus (out August 19 via Warp), and in title alone it speaks to the scar tissue that covers so much of life. As he put it in an announcement of the album: “How can you not be in pain? It ain’t about getting past that shit. It’s about growing into it. I peeled through all these layers to get to the core.”

Album single “Maniac Depressant” plays like a hellish cowboy anthem. The drums are blown out and barely tethered to a tempo. The lonely, one-stringed guitar lick slumps over like a junkie on the nod. Gonjasufi is half-singing and half-yelling his lyrics, zeroing in on the precariousness of mental health, of anguish and loss as its own raw material.

Listening to this, it’s easy to relate it to the wider pain that’s seemingly visited upon us every week now: with one global and national tragedy after another. Thankfully, our society has yet to completely lose track of its own humanity. But in “Maniac Depressant,” Gonjasufi captures how it feels to have the binding completely broken, with nowhere to go but down.