Aaron Frank is not afraid of Death. They’re afraid of him — there was a falling out over a quibble concerning the proper amount of hair spray.
Previously down for his dynamic DJ sets and choices in facial hair, Willie “The Gaslamp Killer” Bensussen has arrived at a pivotal point in his career. Having already established his live presence everywhere from the Gaslamp District in San Diego to Fabric in London, one of the few things left for the 27-year old Low End Theory linchpin is to prove are his skills as an original producer. Last year’s My Troubled Mind expanded upon his DJ skills by distilling the most interesting and original moments of his mixes into separate tracks. But his most impressive production turn arrived on Gonjasufi’s A Sufi and a Killer, which hinged on hip-hop and electronic, but also incorporated spiritual elements and retro samples to create a singular space-soul opus.
While it lacks as many tracks as My Troubled Mind, the density and creativity behind each one makes it a much more complete listen. There’s a certain pre-millenial dread that permeates the EP, serving as both a nod to Gaslamp’s influences in Massive Attack and Portishead, and the tell-tale sign of an artist who lived through Y2K and the Matrix sequels. While there are some recent influences, the album essentially breathes instrumental hip-hop and draws direct inspiration from landmark albums such as DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing and UNKLE’s Psyence Fiction. You can hear the influence of 8-bit and dubstep on the opener “Fun Over 100”, but Gaslamp excels even further when chasing his own hairbrained style on “Carpool Dummy” with Mophono and “Shattering Inner Journeys” with Computer Jay. The former shows off Gaslamp’s cutting and scratching kills while the latter is an important stepping stone for the artist stylistically.
“Shattering Inner Journeys” stands out as the centerpiece of the album and clocks in at over six minutes, it’s one of Gaslamp’s longest tracks to date. The wobbling, vintage synth and insanely loud live drums are all part of Gaslamp’s signature, but the swift tempo changes and extended breakdown near the end make for a near perfect mix. This is the song that appeared on the trailer for the album, and it could also easily accompany the soundtrack a low-budget horror film along with the rest of his catalog. Another stellar track is the previously leaked “When I’m In Awe” with frequent collaborator Gonjasufi. The retro guitar sample on the track provides a soft backdrop for Gonjasufi’s mellow vocals and gives the listener somewhat of a break between the crashing drum breaks on “Carpool Dummy” and post-apocalyptic feel of “Fun Over 100.” When its finished, you’re imbued with the sense that the track was tailored perfectly to display his virtuosic DJ skills and production ability.
Gaslamp Killer is a one of a kind DJ that manages to conjure images of death and sorrow in his music while still keeping thousands dancing at festivals like Eagle Rock and Hard. This isn’t particularly normal or fun dancing either. It’s almost more like the type of dancing you’d witness at a metal concert, closer to moshing than fans would like to admit, but obviously exhibiting a similar release of tension and frustration Though nothing will ever capture the energy of one of his Low End Theory sets, Death Gate does an excellent job at accurately capturing Gaslamp Killer’s monsoon genius on wax.
MP3: The Gaslamp Killer ft. Gonjasufi-“When I’m in Awe”