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A Sufi And A Killer Colin McKean , March 30th, 2010 14:06

A Sufi, or dervish, is an adherent to the tradition of Sufism, the mystical element of Islam. Followers of Sufism seek spiritual purity and the ability to travel into the presence of the divine.

Sumach Valentine, better known as Gonjasufi, is a desert-dwelling yoga instructor and practising Sufi, who has collaborated on tracks with several artists from L.A.'s fertile beats scene. With A Sufi and a Killer, Warp has given Valentine an opportunity to apply his febrile imagination across a full-length release.

The Gaslamp Killer, who produces much of this record, proves to be the perfect foil: a crate-digging Los Angeleno nutjob whose discography extends to barely a handful of tracks and a few magnificent mixes, yet the tapestry of crackling beats and swirling samples GLK weaves is a suitably discomfiting backdrop to our protagonist's end-of-tether rambling.

Following the frenzied raga of 'Baratanatyam', 'Kobwebs' and 'Ancestors' set the album's tone: creaking hip hop noir, against which Gonjasufi's peculiar voice comes across like Nina Simone's familiar honk, recast as the hoarse whisper of a condemned man.

GLK's productions reference a dizzying array of influences, from Hammond-led Jefferson Airplane wig outs to the kitschy, sun-kissed classicism of Burt Bacharach. In contrast, the album also displays symptoms of creepy, menacing psychosis, as if haunted by the frazzled spectres of John Phillips and Arthur Lee.

Both Gonjasufi and Gaslamp Killer contributed to Flying Lotus' game-changing Los Angeles, the former providing vocals to 'Testament', while the latter co-produced the clattering 'GNGBNG'. FlyLo returns the favour here; the booming spaciousness of the aforementioned 'Ancestors' suggests the forthcoming Cosmogramma may be something very special indeed. With 'Candylane', GLK and co-producer Mainframe craft a glistening space funk slow jam that sounds like Outkast's 'Ms. Jackson' on Benzedrine.

While largely successful, there are moments when A Sufi and a Killer seems somewhat the victim of its own relentless eclecticism. 'SuzieQ' is an unnecessary Stooges pastiche and the bubbling electro of 'Holidays' sounds incongruous in the context of the album.

These minor complaints aside, A Sufi and a Killer is a fabulous record, endowed with so many highlights that it seems neither worthwhile nor practical to list any more here. A Sufi and a Killer distinguishes itself as an album of rare ambition and scope: it's a passenger seat on Gonjasufi's freaky ride into the presence of the divine, and the view is compelling.